First elected to the House of Commons of Canada in a 1967 by-election, Ouellet served in a number of different positions in the cabinets of Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. In his capacity as Registrar General of Canada, he was one of the four signatories of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act of 1982 (along with Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Trudeau, and Justice Minister Jean Chrétien). Ouellet represented the safe Liberal seat of Papineau in Montreal for almost thirty years. His hold on the seat was only seriously threatened when the Liberals were crushed by the Progressive Conservative Party in the election of 1984, when he retained his seat by only 500 votes. In opposition, Ouellet became the Liberal's leading figure in the constitutional negotiations that led to the Charlottetown Accord, and was a strong advocate for the constitutional reform proposal, which was rejected in a 1992 referendum.
With the return to power of the Liberals after the 1993 election, Ouellet was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by the new prime minister, Jean Chrétien. Despite his experience, Ouellet was not popular in Quebec, and the lasting legacy of the Charlottetown Accord hurt him. After the close result of the 1995 Quebec referendum, Chrétien wanted to present a new face of his government in Quebec. In 1996, Chrétien appointed Ouellet to head the Canada Post Corporation. Ouellet's seat in the House of Commons of Canada was taken by Pierre Pettigrew in a by-election later that year.
As cabinet minister, Ouellet had served as Postmaster General. As chairman of Canada Post, he implemented reform that led to record profits in the corporation. In 2004, controversy surrounded Ouellet as Canada Post was one of the organizations embroiled in the Sponsorship Scandal. As a result, Ouellet was suspended from his position at Canada Post in February 2004 by Prime Minister Paul Martin. He resigned as chairman of Canada Post on August 12, 2004, after it was revealed that he failed to provide invoices for hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal expenses, and that he handed out untendered contracts.
Electoral record (partial)
|1993 Canadian federal election: Papineau—Saint-Michel|
|Bloc Québécois||Daniel Boucher||15,148||39.24||$18,649|
|Progressive Conservative||Carmen de Pontbriand||1,686||4.37||−28.86||$26,388a|
|New Democratic Party||Gisèle Charlebois||708||1.83||−13.27||$477|
|Natural Law||André Beaudoin||678||1.76||$386|
|Total valid votes||38,601||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||1,241|
|Electors on the lists||52,808|
|a Does not include unpaid claims.|
Source: Thirty-fifth General Election, 1993: Official Voting Results, Published by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. Financial figures taken from the official contributions and expenses submitted by the candidates, provided by Elections Canada.
|1988 Canadian federal election: Papineau|
|Progressive Conservative||Frank Venneri||13,094||33.23||$39,468|
|New Democratic||Giovanni Adamo||5,948||15.10||$22,192|
|Rhinoceros||Carole Ola Clermont||987||2.51||–||$0|
|Green||H. Joseph Vega||469||1.19||–||$0|
|N/A (Marxist-Leninist)||Francine Tremblay||193||0.49||$130|
|N/A (Revolutionary Workers League)||Michel Dugré||178||0.45||$513|
|Commonwealth of Canada||Normand Bélanger||174||0.44||$0|
|Total valid votes||39,400||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||907|
|Electors on the lists||57,470|
|Source: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer, Thirty-fourth General Election, 1988.|
|1984 Canadian federal election: Papineau|
|Progressive Conservative||Tony Iacobaccio||12,053||36.85|
|New Democratic||Paul Comtois||4,295||13.13|
|Parti nationaliste||Gilles Maillé||1,169||3.57|
|Social Credit||Roland Mireault||147||0.45|
|Commonwealth of Canada||Gilles Gervais||113||0.35|
|Total valid votes||32,707||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||659|
|Electors on the lists||47,423|
|Source: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer, Thirty-third General Election, 1984.|
|26th Ministry – Cabinet of Jean Chrétien|
|Cabinet posts (2)|
|legislation enacted||Minister of Foreign Affairs
|Perrin Beatty||Secretary of State for External Affairs
styled as Minister of Foreign Affairs
|Parliament of Canada|
| Member of Parliament for Papineau
The electoral district was abolished in 1987.
The electoral district was created in 1987.
| Member of Parliament for Papineau—Saint-Michel