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Former Quebec premier Bernard Landry dead at 81

Bernard Landry dead at 81
WATCH: Quebecers across the province are mourning the loss of former premier Bernard Landry. As Global's Tim Sargeant reports, the strong believer in Quebec sovereignty was actively involved in politics for more than 40 years.

Former Quebec premier Bernard Landry has died at the age of 81.

The former leader and longtime stalwart of the Parti Québécois governed from 2001 to 2003 until he was defeated by the Quebec Liberals under the leadership of Jean Charest. He was also leader of the left-leaning separatist party from 2001 to 2005 after Lucien Bouchard resigned.

“The guy was a great man, an important man in the history of Quebec,” said Quebec Premier François Legault, who added Landry will be given a full state funeral.

READ MORE: Ex-Quebec premier Bernard Landry gives support to Bloc leader

His health had been failing over the past few months and he passed away at his home in Verchères, Que., of complications from pulmonary disease. Landry’s death was confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

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“My heart is broken by the news of the death of Premier Landry,” said PQ interim leader Pascal Bérubé on Twitter. “On behalf of the Parti Québécois, I offer my sincerest condolences to his family, his friends and to to all Quebec sovereigntists.”

WATCH BELOW: Bernard Landry remembered by Quebec Premier François Legault

Bernard Landry remembered by Quebec Premier François Legault
Bernard Landry remembered by Quebec Premier François Legault

PQ MNA Catherine Fournier said Landry’s legacy “will continue to inspire the next generation.”

“A country, we will do it thanks to your contribution,” she said on social media.

“Rest assured that we will carry the torch high up.”

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Régis Labeaume, the mayor of Quebec City, described the former premier’s death as a “huge loss for Quebec.”

“Mr. Landry made a mark on the Quebec nation, his contribution has been outstanding and he has always promoted our language, our culture and our identity,” he said in a statement.

An ardent sovereigntist from the beginning

An ardent sovereigntist, Landry was a student activist in the 1960s. He obtained a law degree from the Université de Montréal before he went on to study economics and finance at the l’Institut d’études politiques de Paris.

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The Saint-Jacques native was only 27 when PQ founder René Lévesque drew him into the sphere of Quebec politics. He ran unsuccessfully in 1970 and 1973 under the party banner, but he finally secured a seat in the Fabre riding in 1976.

During his time with the party, Landry held several prominent positions, beginning with minister of state for economic development. He also served as finance minister, minister of external trade and international relations.

“He was a man who served in politics in the cause he believed in with tremendous passion for his entire career,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Bernard Landry (left) pictured with Parti Québécois founder René Lévesque.
Bernard Landry (left) pictured with Parti Québécois founder René Lévesque. Jacques Nadeau/The Canadian Press

In 1994, he was named deputy premier by then-premier Jacques Parizeau. Dubbed a “super minister,” he also held several positions including minister of international affairs, immigration and cultural communities.

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Throughout his political career, Landry was not only a staunch sovereignist, he was dedicated to building an economically self-sufficient Quebec nation. Under Bouchard, he was the first finance minister in decades to balance the budget.

“He certainly gave the sovereignty and separatists’ movement credibility on economic issues and that was his expertise,” Charest told Global News. “So he has made a very significant contribution to the building of modern Quebec.”

Landry then served as deputy premier of Quebec until 2001 when he took over from Bouchard.

READ MORE: Lise Payette remembered at national tribute in Montreal

After the PQ was defeated in the 2003 provincial election, Landry stayed on as leader of the party until he left politics in 2005.

The last time Landry was seen in public was last May 21, when he was participated in National Patriots’ Day activities.

His first wife Lorraine Laporte-Landry died of cancer in 1999. He leaves behind his second wife Chantal Renaud and his three children, Julie, Philippe and Pascale.

— With files from Global’s Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press