Quebecor media baron Pierre Karl Péladeau has been elected the new leader of the Parti Québécois.

Péladeau, the favourite in the race, won on the first ballot with 57.6 per cent of the vote.

'Our project is not against Canadians. It's for the people of Quebec.' - Pierre Karl Péladeau

In a speech to party faithful after the results were announced, Péladeau wasted no time thrusting the issue of independence to the forefront, urging pro-sovereigntist forces in the province to come together.

"It is in all our interests to place the superior interest of Quebec above our personal ambitions," he said.

"The great coalition for independence must be reborn."

Péladeau also addressed "our friends in North America and in the world" in a portion of his speech delivered in English.

"We want to have and enjoy our own country," he said.

"Our project is not against Canadians. It's for the people of Quebec."

Party members had the choice between Péladeau, Alexandre Cloutier or Martine Ouellet.

PQ candidates

Pierre Karl Péladeau defeated rivals Martine Ouellet and Alexandre Cloutier on the first ballot for the PQ's top job. (Canadian Press/CBC)

Cloutier and Ouellet were both cabinet ministers under Pauline Marois, who resigned as PQ leader after the party's April 2014 election defeat.

Cloutier got 29.2 per cent of the vote, while Ouellet got 13.2 per cent.

The winner required at least 50 per cent.

Independence the goal

Péladeau's lofty objective of nationhood will have to wait at least three years because the next election will be held only in the fall of 2018.

Despite his repeated pro-independence proclamations, Péladeau's stance on a sovereignty referendum is that he will wait to see what happens in the next election before deciding whether to hold one.

Much of the leadership campaign focused on Péladeau's refusal to sell his shares in Quebecor Inc., the conglomerate in which he remains the controlling shareholder. He promised to put the shares in a blind trust, a position critics say was inadequate.

The debate prompted Liberal house leader Jean-Marc Fournier to quip that if PQ members "want to transform the Parti Québécois into the Parti Quebecor, it's up to them."

Although a political neophyte — he was elected in April 2014 —  Péladeau's influence in Quebec is undeniable.

Quebecor owns some of the biggest media properties in the province, such as newspapers, a TV network, book publishers and music distributors. His company is also a major player in cable, internet and cellphone services.

Péladeau's critics and political opponents say he is divisive, anti-union and too short-tempered to handle the frustrations and nuances of political life.

But his passionate, public and fervent cries for Quebec sovereignty, coupled with his high profile, made him a seemingly irresistible candidate for party brass who long desperately to be pioneers of an independent country.

Former cabinet minister Bernard Drainville said as much when he dropped out of the race in April.

"In the last few weeks, it has become very clear to us that Pierre Karl is going to win, on the first ballot, hands down," said Drainville, the man who introduced the ill-fated secularism charter when the PQ was last in power.

Another man considered as leadership potential, Jean-Francois Lisée, quit the race in January, saying he knew he couldn't beat Péladeau.

Stéphane Bedard had been leading the party on an interim basis since Marois resigned.

On mobile? Check out our live blog here.

With files from The Canadian Press