Pierre Karl Péladeau quits as Parti Québécois leader

Pierre Karl Péladeau has announced he is stepping down as head of the Parti Québécois, less than a year after being elected leader of the sovereignist party.

Quebecor media baron took over as leader of the separatist party last May

Pierre Karl Péladeau has announced he is resigning as head of the Parti Québécois, less than a year after being elected leader of the sovereignist party. 1:37

Pierre Karl Péladeau has announced he is resigning as head of the Parti Québécois, less than a year after being elected leader of the sovereignist party.

Péladeau told a news conference in Montreal on Monday he made the decision 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.

"I make this decision for the well-being of my children," he said. "I must, for them, remain a good example."

Parti Québecois Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau and Julie Snyder hug after getting married in August 2015. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
Péladeau said he will also step down as the PQ member of the National Assembly for Saint-Jérôme, meaning an end to his brief foray into politics for one of the most powerful business people in the province. He met with his caucus to inform them of his decision ahead of the announcement.

Despite a series of recent setbacks and allegations of corruption against the ruling Quebec Liberals, Péladeau's PQ had failed to gain traction in the polls.

A promise to 'make Quebec a country'

The Quebecor media baron barrelled into politics as a star candidate under then PQ leader Pauline Marois in 2014, famously declaring, with the thrust of his fist, he would "make Quebec a country."

Following a disappointing result in the 2014 election, which saw the Liberals regain power with a majority, Marois resigned and Péladeau took over a year later, on May 15, 2015, winning with 57.6 per cent of the vote.

After taking the leadership, his first words were that he would settle for nothing less than an independent Quebec.

Much of the leadership campaign and the past year have focused on his steadfast refusal to sell his shares in Quebecor, the conglomerate in which he remains the controlling shareholder.

Then PQ leader Pauline Marois looks on as Pierre Karl Péladeau expresses his hopes for an independent Quebec during a news conference in Saint Jérôme, Que., in 2014. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The resignation comes following an especially tumultuous period for Péladeau, but few saw the announcement coming. 

"I was very in favour of his politics and commitment and I was supporting him," former Quebec premier and PQ leader Bernard Landry said. "And I was saddened and surprised."

Last week, Péladeau announced that his chief of staff, Pierre Duchesne, would be relieved of his duties. He was demoted to an adviser role.

A week earlier, Péladeau called on sovereignist forces, including rival Québec Solidaire, to come together in the hopes of making Quebec a country.

A blow to PQ hopes

Michel David, a political columnist for Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper, said the resignation comes as a surprise, even if the PQ has not done as well as anticipated under Péladeau.

David said the move represents another blow to the party, which has a history of bringing down its leaders.

"I am astonished as everyone else is, I guess. Nobody had seen that coming, whether inside the party or outside the party," he said. 

David said Péladeau's hope to unite the sovereignist ranks was hampered by his own reputation as a union buster with Quebecor, something that did not sit well with the social-democratic party Québec Solidaire and left-wing members of the PQ. 

Françoise David is co-spokesperson for Québec Solidaire, a social-democratic sovereignist party. (Jacques Boissinot/ Canadian Press)

Péladeau said Monday he's hopeful unity within the sovereignist ranks can still happen. He ended his news conference by saying he will remain an active member of the PQ. 

"I am convinced that the future of Quebec and Quebecers lies in the independence of our nation," he said.

Françoise David from Québec Solidaire said it was too early to say whether her party and the PQ would join forces in the wake of Péladeau's sudden resignation.

"I admit, really, it's a real surprise for us today," David said. "It must have been a very difficult choice for Mr. Péladeau and we respect his decision."

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he was saddened by Péladeau's resignation and that while they don't share the same political views, Péladeau worked hard to further Quebec.

"The decision he made today is the fruits of a painful reflection that led him to choose his family before his political ambitions," Couillard said in a statement.

"The well-being of our loved ones and of our children are most precious to us."

Family strain

Péladeau has two children with Snyder, Thomas, 10, and Romy, 7. He has another child from an earlier marriage, Marie, 16.

His resignation comes a day after an interview with Snyder on Radio-Canada's popular French talk show Tout le monde en parle, in which she discussed sacrifices she had to make when Péladeau entered the political arena.

"There is certainly a link to the extraordinary interview that Julie Snyder gave yesterday," François Gendron, a PQ member of the National Assembly, told Radio-Canada.

Julie Snyder spoke openly on Tout le monde en parle about her marriage and separation from Pierre Karl Péladeau. (Radio-Canada)

When asked by the show's host, Guy A. Lepage, about being in divorce mediation, Snyder replied that it was a challenge, saying they were trying to be respectful of one another during a difficult time.

"Our children learn a lot by example," she said, in a statement echoed by Péladeau a day later.

"I hope we can be good examples."

With files from Molly Kholi, Jonathan Montpetit, Jessica Rubinger and The Canadian Press