Pierre Karl Péladeau tries to move from star power to substance

The PQ leader's decision to come to the defence of anglophones signals his evolution as leader: focusing on particular issues that go beyond his expertise in business and his fervour for sovereignty.

Parti Québécois leader will be challenged to follow through on his promises as National Assembly set to resume

Parti Québécois Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau speaks during question period this week. (Clement Allard/The Canadian Press)

Last week at the Parti Québécois head office in Montreal, Pierre Karl Péladeau did something rare for a PQ politician.

In his opening statement at a news conference, he criticized the Couillard government's plan to abolish school board elections and spoke, in English, about the need to respect the constitutional rights of anglophones.

Wait a second. A PQ leader coming to the defence of anglophone rights?

Yes. It happened.

It was one of several moments recently where we caught a glimpse of Péladeau's evolution as leader: focusing on particular issues that go beyond his expertise in business and his fervour for sovereignty.

You could call it switching the focus from a leader with star power to one with substance and something to offer. And it is something he is trying to do in his role as the opponent-in-chief to Premier Philippe Couillard and the Liberal government agenda.

So for the next two days, he and his MNAs will hunker down and decide which other issues they will hone in on as the official opposition at a two-day caucus retreat which begins Wednesday in Jonquière.

As Péladeau tries to find his footing as a politician (remember, he has only been an MNA for a year and a half and leader for eight months), he will also face questions about one of his signature leadership promises: the creation of a sovereignty think tank.

This organization would be a key instrument to make the case to Quebecers for independence, according to Péladeau.

But when I asked him last summer in Rimouski at his party's caucus retreat how it will be funded, he did not have any answers. Nor did he have any last week when asked by reporters at a press conference in Montreal. He says details are coming soon though.

Once Péladeau wraps up this caucus retreat, he will have to start answering those questions and show that he is following through on his leadership promises, while cementing himself as the main opponent to Couillard.

About the Author

Ryan Hicks

Ryan Hicks is CBC's Quebec National Assembly correspondent. He has reported from Montreal, Winnipeg, Charlottetown and Ottawa - where he was a producer on Power & Politics in the Parliamentary Bureau.