Pierre Karl Péladeau resignation has politicians pondering work-life balance

Pierre Karl Péladeau's tearful evocation of his children as the main reason he quit as leader of the Parti Quebecois has politicians of all stripes reflecting on the challenges they face making time for their families.

'You have a lot of divorce, a lot of separation,' Montreal mayor Denis Coderre said

In happier times, Pierre-Karl Péladeau arrives with his family, from the left, Romy, Marie, his wife Julie Snyder and son Thomas to hear leadership vote results in May 2015. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Pierre Karl Péladeau's tearful evocation of his children as the main reason he quit as leader of the Parti Québécois on Monday has politicians of all stripes reflecting on the challenges they face making time for family. 

"We all feel for him," said Montreal mayor Denis Coderre during a media scrum Tuesday.

Péladeau told a news conference in Montreal on Monday he was stepping down for family reasons. 

"I had to make a difficult choice between my family and our political project," he said in a brief speech. "I chose my family."

Péladeau married Julie Snyder, his longtime girlfriend and a popular Quebec television producer and host, in a star-studded wedding last August. The couple announced they were separating in January.

In a highly publicized and candid interview Sunday night on Radio-Canada's talk show Tout le monde en parle, Snyder said the couple tried to work out their differences but were currently going through a challenging divorce mediation.​
Mayor Denis Coderre speaks to reporters on Tuesday at City Hall. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Coderre, a political veteran and former federal cabinet minister, is known as a hard-working mayor who attends events seven days a week, often late into the evening. 

Coderre has two children, now in their 20s.

"You need to pass some quality time with your son or daughter. You need to think about the couple too. It's important to make sure you don't forget yourself," Coderre said.

He told reporters about his own personal struggles.

"I lived through a separation myself and I came back with my wife. I understand the toughness. Sometimes the worst happens. You have a lot of divorce, a lot of separation," Coderre said.

Guilt and tears from MNAs

Dominique Anglade, Quebec's economic development minister, is relatively new to politics after being elected in a by-election last fall. She has three young children.

Anglade told CBC News she was moved by Péladeau's tearful press conference.

"I felt for him, because he had to choose between his real conviction, his passion, and family, and I find this is a very tough decision to make," Anglade said.

Anglade admitted she feels guilty sometimes as a mother.

Economic Devlopment Minister Dominique Anglade. (Radio-Canada)

"But you feel that you can have an impact on society, and that's why you do it," she said.

PQ MNA Francois Gendron, the longest-serving member of the National Assembly, choked up himself in an interview with Radio-Canada.

"I lived it. I have three kids. Someone who chooses those he loves, as he did. I salute this decision," Gendron said.

Striking a balance

Some politicians are taking steps to try to carve out time for families.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told CBC in January every night she shuts off her phone between 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. to spend time with her family.

When Catherine McKenna was elected and then appointed to cabinet, she vowed to stop work at 5:30pm most days to have family time. She joined All in a Day about how that promise is going, as did MP Hedy Fry. 11:27

"I just decided that it was really important that I figure out a way that I could be effective at work but also be happy," McKenna said.

For his part, Coderre recently introduced a daycare service at Montreal City Hall where councillors and voters can leave their kids during council meetings.

"We need to find ways so people will be able to participate in democratic life," Coderre said.