Maurice Bellemare

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Maurice Bellemare
Member of the National Assembly of Quebec for Champlain
In office
1944–1970
Preceded by Joseph-Philias Morin
Succeeded by Normand Toupin
Member of the National Assembly of Quebec for Johnson
In office
1974–1979
Preceded by Jean-Claude Boutin
Succeeded by Camille Picard
Personal details
Born (1912-06-08)8 June 1912
Grand-Mère, Quebec
Died 15 June 1989(1989-06-15) (aged 77)
Grand-Mère, Quebec
Political party Union Nationale

Maurice Bellemare, OC (8 June 1912 – 15 June 1989) was a politician in Quebec, Canada. He was known as Le Vieux Lion de la Politique Québécoise (The Old Lion of Quebec Politics) because of his colourful style and his many years of public office. Bellemare was one of the last survivors of the Union Nationale party.[1]

Member of the legislature[edit]

Born in Grand-Mère, Quebec, Bellemare served seven consecutive terms as Member of the Legislative Assembly for the district of Champlain in the Mauricie area. He was a member of the Union nationale and first was elected in the 1944 provincial election at the age of 32, when Maurice Duplessis was put back in office as Premier of Quebec.

Gaining influence[edit]

Bellemare served as the Deputy Government House Whip, from the 1948 provincial election to 1953, and as the Government House Whip, from 1953 to 1959.

He also was the mayor of Saint-Jean-des-Piles, a small town in the Mauricie area, from 1954 to 1957.

After the Duplessis's death in 1959, Paul Sauvé became Premier. He appointed Bellemare to the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio. The function is honorary for the most part, but indicates that Bellemare was gaining political clout. Bellemare remained in the Cabinet until the Liberals won a majority in the 1960 election.

As a Member of the Official Opposition, Bellemare was soon considered one of the Lesage administration’s most vocal and most effective critics.

Member of the Cabinet[edit]

In 1966, the Union Nationale won a majority of seats to the legislature, even though they received less votes than the Liberals and Daniel Johnson, Sr. became Premier.

Bellemare was appointed to the Cabinet. He served as Minister of Labour from the 1966 election to 1970, Minister of Industry and Commerce from 1966 to 1967 and Government House Leader from 1966 to 1969.

He also served a second term as Mayor of Saint-Jean-des-Piles from 1968 to 1970.

Bellemare did not run for re-election in the 1970 election and temporarily retired from public office.

Rescuing his party[edit]

After Johnson’s death in 1968, Jean-Jacques Bertrand became Leader of the Union Nationale. Under his tenure, the party suffered from internal divisions and lost many of its followers to the emerging Parti Québécois. From 56 seats in the 1966 election, the strength of the party at the legislature went down to 17 seats in the 1970 election. In the 1973 election, a few months after Bertrand’s death and under the leadership of Gabriel Loubier, the party was completely wiped off the electoral map. The Union Nationale was on life support.

Bellemare came out of retirement and took over the party leadership until a convention could be held. Against all odds, he won a by-election in the district of Johnson in the Eastern Townships. For more than two years, Bellemare was the only sitting Union Nationale Member of the legislature.

A few months before the 1976 election, Rodrigue Biron was chosen as leader and, surprisingly, the party was able to get 11 of his candidates elected, including Bellemare. From 1976 until he retired from provincial politics in 1979, Bellemare served as the House Leader of the Union Nationale.

Less than three months after Bellemare's retirement, Biron left the Union Nationale. He eventually joined the Parti Québécois, a move that Bellemare strongly disapproved. Bellemare was a federalist.

Biron's defection to the PQ undermined Bellemare's efforts to rebuild the Union Nationale. In the 1981 election, the party was wiped off the map again.

In the 1985 election, the Union Nationale was running only 19 candidates (out of 122) who had no reasonable chance of winning. Bellemare initially supported the new Progressive Conservative Party of Quebec but ultimately announced that for the first time he would vote Liberal.

Municipal politics[edit]

From 1981 to 1983, Bellemare was one the Councillors of the Saint-Jean-des-Piles local government.

In 1983, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition for being "a politician who always cared about the welfare of working people and served his province and country with enthusiasm, determination and skill".[2]

In 1989, he died from diabetes at age 77.

Footnotes[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

National Assembly of Quebec
Preceded by
Pierre Laporte, Liberal
Government House Leader
1966–1969
Succeeded by
Rémi Paul, Union Nationale
Preceded by
Carrier Fortin, Liberal
Minister of Labour
1966–1970
Succeeded by
Jean Cournoyer, Union Nationale
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gabriel Loubier
Leader of the Union Nationale (interim)
1974–1976
Succeeded by
Rodrigue Biron