From March 22, 2012, when he published this disgusting article in L’Actualité, to October 1, 2018, when he had his political ass handed to him, Jean-François Lisée behaved in a remarkably destructive fashion. He widened divisions between us. He poisoned our political culture. And he presided over the death of one of our province’s greatest institutions: the socially-democratic Parti-Québécois of René Lévesque. What’s worse, he knew all along that what he was doing was wrong.

When an ignorant man says ignorant things, you can at least console yourself with the notion that he might one day be enlightened. He might learn something new at some point and see the error of his ways. Likewise, when a genuine racist (or a genuine xenophobe) says something politically incorrect, you can almost always reason with him. He’s telling you what he really thinks about the world. And that’s a starting point. Because he’s got reasons. They may be bad reasons, but at least they’re reasons. You can reason with such a man. It’s possible. I’ve done it. Many times.

But what can you possibly say to a man like Lisée, a man who habitually says ignorant things he knows to be false? How can you reason with a sophisticated cosmopolitan who says racist things with a knowing wink? How can you have an honest conversation with a man who says xenophobic things when he’s pandering to small-town folk in places like Hérouxville one day, and makes fun of the very same rural rubes in the cafés of Plateau Mont-Royal the next day? How can you possibly reason with such a man? Lisée will be remembered as one of the most cynical figures in the political history of our province.

History will judge that, despite some admittedly silly rhetorical flourishes, and a few seriously bad calls, René Lévesque was a great man, with decent political instincts, who had a moderating influence on a movement that could have easily run amok. By contrast, history will judge that Lisée was a petty man, with the machiavellian political instincts of the worst kind of populist, who helped to divide an electorate that was, for the most part, getting along famously. Good riddance, Monsieur Lisée! There’s a word for knowing better but willingly doing worse: evil.

—John Faithful Hamer