The PQ's brush with Pierre Karl Péladeau cost the party dearly

The Parti Québécois lost 24 MNAs while courting PKP, but it wasn’t the first time a brush with the magnate hurt the party.

The party lost 24 MNAs, it's deep in debt and its brand is bruised. And now it needs a new leader.

Pierre Karl Péladeau left the PQ with fewer MNAs, more debt, and a bruised brand. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Former Parti Québécois leader Pierre Karl Péladeau stormed through his party with the speed of a tornado.

Here's a quick run-down of the key issues he leaves behind for the party to clean up.

Where did everyone go?

While wooing the man that would be the party saviour, the Parti Québécois shed many valuable members of its team.

Many observers have argued that Péladeau's sovereignty fist-pump stirred a referendum threat that cost then-leader Pauline Marois the 2014 election.

With that, the party lost 24 MNAs including several key ministers like Bertrand St-Arnaud, Pierre Duchesne, and Diane De Courcy, along with former student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin.

Even Marois lost her seat.

Léo Bureau-Blouin and Pauline Marois in 2013. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

It wasn't the first time a brush with Péladeau cost the party dearly.

In 2011, prior to Péladeau's entry into politics, the PQ supported a bill meant to protect a contract his company Quebecor had signed with Quebec City.

It was a tipping point that ended with a half-dozen MNAs slamming the door, including heavy hitters like former language minister Louise Beaudoin, Jacques Parizeau's wife Lisette Lapointe, and well-known actor Pierre Curzi.

Yet more would follow.

Stéphane Bédard had held the party together for a year as interim leader, even causing its poll numbers to go up.

Stéphane Bédard was one of they key PQ figures who left the party after Péladeau stepped in. (CBC)

Five months after Péladeau replaced him, Bédard had packed his bags for Chicoutimi, officially to spend more time with his family, although the fact that the new leader had recently sidelined him politically escaped no one.

Key staff members also left.

Take Simon Lajoie, who left after spending 14 years as the party's expert in parliamentary procedure, a key skill that can't be found through a classified ad.

Every penny counts

The Parti Québécois is also more than $1 million in debt, mainly due to its poor showing in the last election, not the result of Péladeau's leadership.

Still, it must now organize some sort of contest to replace him.

Even if the candidates pay in part for the race through registration fees, they will have to, once again, pass the hat around among the party faithful.

It will be the second time in a year they've been solicited to contribute toward a race, and they will soon be asked to bolster the PQ's sorry war chest for an election campaign, only two years away.

The brand

"When we wear these white scarves, we think it [signifies] truth and light and transparency," Marois said in 2010.
 Under Marois' guidance, MNAs had draped themselves in white scarves to signify the party's ethical purity.

Her party fought and won an effort to create the office of ethics commissioner.

The signal they chose was clear: the Parti Québécois is a party of ethical standards.

But when Péladeau arrived, the party's MNAs were left in the awkward position of defending the fact that their colleague, and later leader, was the controlling shareholder of Quebec's most important media empire.

The National Assembly ethics commissioner told MNAs to fix the hole in the ethics code.

The PQ said critics were trying to unseat a duly-elected MNA.

Now, Péladeau is gone, and so is that argument.

But the MNAs who insisted there was nothing wrong with his situation are still there. The PQ's political adversaries will likely try to change the code of ethics to block any future Péladeaus, and this will put the party's MNAs in a tricky spot.

It will be hard for the Parti Québécois to accept a change without appearing to admit that there was something wrong with their leader's situation to begin with.