That time a former separatist and Liberal joined the Parole Board

Do you remember the voice of Richard Bélisle echoing through the halls of parliament? That name will only sound familiar if you watched the House of Commons from 1993 until 1997, when Bélisle was victorious in La Prairie, Que. He lost a 1997 re-election bid, and never returned to the House of Commons. It wasn’t for lack of effort. Bélisle ran again in 2000, 2004, and 2011, and even ran provincially in Quebec in 2008. Soon after his 2011 loss, Bélisle was appointed a part-time member of the Parole Board of Canada. Today, he was appointed a full-time member.

Without any further context, you might assume Bélisle was a Conservative candidate for all those years, and this is your average patronage appointment. That’s mostly true, but not entirely. He was elected under the Bloc Quebecois banner in 1993, beating future Liberal cabinet minister Jacques Saada by 476 votes. He managed to rack up 39 per cent of the vote in 1997, but lost to Liberal Yolande Thibault by 978 votes in the riding of Saint-Lambert.

Following that, Bélisle switched parties and joined the Canadian Alliance. Under that banner, he lost a bid in 2000 in Brossard-La Prairie, where Saada gained his revenge. Bélisle managed only 5.8 per cent of the vote, good enough for third place. In 2004, under the new Conservative banner, he finished in fourth in Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher—racking up just 4.9 per cent of the vote.

Bélisle went provincial in 2008, running for the Quebec Liberals in Taillon. He convinced a respectable 33 per cent of voters to choose his candidacy, but lost to Parti Quebecois MNA Marie Malavoy.

The final chapter in Bélisle’s electoral career came in 2011, when he ran again federally in Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher. He finished fourth, behind eventual winner and NDP MP Pierre Nantel. In December 2011, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews appointed him a part-time member of the parole board.

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