About Leo Piquette


Leo Piquette

Leo Piquette

Born in 1946 in a French Canadian family of six siblings, being the youngest of five sons. Grew up in Plamondon, Alberta, a mainly French-speaking community in Northeast Alberta founded in 1908 by my grandfather on my mother’s side, Joseph Plamondon, and a group of 40 Franco American from Michigan searching for new land and a place to preserve their language and culture.
My paternal grandfather, Alcide Piquette came to Morinville/St Albert in 1901 from Montreal trained as a business accountant with my Irish grandmother, a bilingual teacher. They moved to Plamondon in 1912 as accountant manager and teacher.

I grew up on a family dairy farm supplying milk, butter to Lac La Biche region and Ft. McMurray in the 50s and sixties...All seven siblings graduated from Plamondon School and went on to university to obtain teaching, social, and engineering degrees.

I became a School teacher in 1967 with a B.Ed degree in history and French. In my second year, I was appointed School Principal in Caslan, Alberta, and became quickly renowned for being a progressive reformist educational leader involving Metis leaders and parents in a community-oriented school. After 3 years I was recruited as Principal of Vermilion Elementary School, then by the Edmonton Public School Board as Vice Principal of Belgravia and Satoo Elementary made in charge of Science and French language pilot programs. I soon became a pioneer in developing the French Immersion program in Alberta beginning in 1976 -78 when the County of Leduc named me School Principal at a new community-based elementary junior high school in Beaumont. The J E La Pointe School in Beaumont became a model French Immersion School that help spread this unique popular language program around the province and through many appearances as guest speakers at many Western Administration conferences in BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba across Canada. This pilot immersion language program was also quickly adopted by Ukrainian, Italian, Chinese communities to help preserve their language and heritage.

My next endeavor was in the world of advertising and publishing also started in 1977 while I was School Principal. With a brother in law, Brian Boyce, who started Sage Publication, to compete against mainly American based publishers doing University of Alberta annual publications for graduates of different faculties, this experience led us to win the competition to publish the 1978 British Commonwealth Game Publication for the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. This success led to a great expansion as publishers for the Vancouver Board of Trade, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary Winnipeg, and Montreal Better Business Bureau organizations. As General Sales Manager, we achieved multi-million dollar sale targets, recruited and trained sale staff in many cities. However the financial crash of 1982 and too quick of an expansion left us almost bankrupt as payment for advertising sales collapsed by over 50%.

I made a life decision to resume teaching and to take over the family farm in Plamondon in 1982 where I quickly got involved with community leaders with the threatened Francophone community who were facing assimilation with a now majority English environment. As President of the regional French organization, we petitioned the government for a Francophone School in our community. Of course, it was rejected but this resulted in other rural-based issues in my getting involved with provincial politics wherein 1986, I was elected as NDP MLA for Athabasca/Lac La Biche Constituency. I was quickly known as a hard-working new MLA who successfully aggressively represented the many needs of his constituency, in economic Forestry development which ALPAC was the result, 6 new schools, highway paving, Athabasca University expansion, Portage College, low-cost housing programs, etc.

But the event of April 7, 1987, when I spoke French in the Alberta Legislature and was told by the Speaker to speak English only led to the infamous Piquette Affair, which cast me nationally as a national leader for French-language rights under Section 110 of the Alberta provincial statute and Francophone School rights under Section 23 of the 1982 Charter of Rights. Both cases were won in the Supreme Court in 1988 and 1990 which resulted in significant changes to Francophone rights across Canada.

With the resulting anti-French backlash, I narrowly lost the 1989 election, which resulted in the launching of my very successful Insurance Financial career in 1990. Piquette Agencies Ltd took over a defunct Cooperators agency in Plamondon and quickly change it into a leader in Commercial Farm Insurance sales and expanded it within a few years to Lac La Biche, Boyle, Athabasca regions. After 31 years it is still a very successful family business now owned by my daughter, Andrea, and has 6 family members working together. Semi-retired since 2010, I was recruited by Alberta Counsel in May 2015 as Senior Consultant. It has been exciting to see this new multi-party Lobbying and Legal firm become successful in a quickly changing political environment.