Quebec election: Is Pierre Karl Peladeau the PQ's white knight?
With his high profile and access to financial resources, Pierre Karl Péladeau would certainly have an advantage to take over the reins of the bruised Parti Québécois.
But the media magnate may not be what’s needed for a party recovering from a devastating loss and searching for an identity, some observers say.
"I think if PKP wants to run as leader of the opposition, he'll be a difficult man to stop,” said Jean-François Godbout, a University of Montreal political science professor and a visiting professor at Princeton University. “However the PQ is in shambles — what's going on with the progressive wing, the union wing — will they accept the PQ being run by someone like Péladeau?”
The Parti Québécois suffered a crushing defeat on Monday, losing 24 seats and its leader Pauline Marois, who, following the results, announced her plans to step down.
Immediately, names of possible contenders for the leadership role emerged — Bernard Drainville, the former minister responsible for the secular charter; Jean-François Lisée, former international relations minister and media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau.
But some believe Péladeau, while winning his seat in the riding of Saint-Jérôme, could be damaged goods.
Although brought in as a star candidate, Péladeau's presence may have served to alienate segments of the left and right of the political spectrum. Some partially blame Péladeau for the party’s misfortunes at the polls Monday night, saying his independence rhetoric during the announcement of his candidacy made sovereignty an issue the PQ did not want at the forefront of the campaign.
And with his reputation as a union-busting executive, many believed his candidacy was a signal that sovereignty was now the raison d’être of a party that was perceived to be leaning to the left.
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Alain-G. Gagnon, political science professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, said Pauline Marois had hoped the party would reap benefits from Péladeau's business credentials.
But Péladeau, as president and CEO of Québecor Inc., Groupe TVA and Québecor Média, had a history of locking out workers during labour disputes. Upon the announcement of his candidacy, some of Quebec’s labour unions, a traditional ally of the the PQ, sent out warnings that some of its members would not be voting for the party.
"The words that came out were how tough this guy has been with workers, and workers tend to be with the PQ. And it sort of backfired on them," Gagnon said.
And these issues would continue to haunt Péladeau as leader of the party, Gagnon said.
Anne Trépanier, a professor with Carleton’s School of Canadian Studies, blamed both the PQ’s roll out of its controversial charter of values and Péladeau's polarizing candidacy for the party’s loss.
“He, with his right-wing economic leadership, he killed the idea that the PQ is a coalition. It's now very hard to see where the left is in this coalition,’ Trépanier said.
Many of those progressives have already left the party to join the sovereigntist Québec Solidaire, which picked up its third seat Monday night.
“Of all the upcoming [potential] leaders, he's the stronger one but it doesn’t make the PQ stronger. I'm suspecting the party will be more right-leaning especially because the QS has won a third seat and it really shows the sovereigntist left exists and it's now with QS."
Gagnon believes the Quebec electorate has moved to the right over the past decade. Péladeau would follow suit with the PQ but would find it challenging competing for the same voters as the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Québec, Gagnon said.
"Were he to become the [leader], the statement that the PQ would be making is they are simply to be the clone of the CAQ except [the PQ] wants out [of Canada] instead of in,” Gagnon said.
“And leaning to the right of the political spectrum, they will thoroughly alienate another segment of the electorate that trusts the PQ as long as they are progressive.”