Montreal

Talk of PKP's return shakes up PQ MNAs at caucus retreat

Parti Québécois MNAs have rushed to show support for their current leader, Jean-François Lisée, after former party chief Pierre Karl Péladeau surprised everyone Tuesday with talk of a possible return.

Caucus rallies around current leader, Jean-François Lisée, after former chief’s comeback talk

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée said he would welcome former PQ chief Pierre Karl Péladeau back to run in the October election and isn't worried that Péladeau's return might put pressure on him to step aside as leader. (Radio-Canada)

Parti Québécois MNAs have rushed to show support for their current leader, Jean-François Lisée, after former party chief Pierre Karl Péladeau surprised everyone Tuesday with talk of a possible return.

The Quebecor media owner told Radio-Canada he is ready to lend a hand to the party he led briefly, from May 2015 to May 2016, and that his daughter is encouraging him to throw his hat back in the ring.

The news knocked the PQ off its message track on the first day of the Official Opposition's Shawinigan caucus retreat, thrusting the future of the party and their former leader onto centre stage.

Despite his abrupt departure as party leader, he maintains a strong following from the party's base.

There's already speculation the multi-millionaire's return to politics could create a power struggle within the party.

Pierre Karl Péladeau, who led the PQ for a year until abruptly stepping down in May 2016, told Radio-Canada this week he is 'ready to serve' should the sovereignist cause need him. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

From China, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the Parti Québécois would "have its hands full" with conflict of interest questions if Quebec's biggest media owner were to return to politics.

'We always knew he would be back'

In Shawinigan, no one except Lisée spoke to journalists for more than two minutes before handlers cut off reporters' questions.
Nicole Léger, the PQ MNA for Pointe-aux-Trembles, says Pierre Karl Péladeau never really left the PQ when he stepped down as leader in May 2016. 'We always knew he would be back,' Léger said. (Radio-Canada)

Many said Péladeau would be welcomed back as a candidate.

"He never left. When he quit, he really quit for family reasons. We always knew he would be back," said Pointe-aux-Trembles MNA Nicole Léger.

Abitibi-Ouest MNA François Gendron said Péladeau would be a welcome as a team member — not as a replacement leader.

"The leader of the PQ for the next election is Jean-François Lisée," said Gendron.

Lisée told reporters he spoke to Péladeau Tuesday, and again today, hoping to persuade him to seek a nomination. His return could bring some sovereignists voters back to the fold, Lisée said.

As for conflict of interest issues, Lisée, who once raised those issues himself, now says the matter is resolved.

He is also batting away the suggestion the media tycoon might be waiting for him to fail in the October election in order to make a comeback as leader.

"I think people like to believe that, but he never said anything like that," said Lisée.

With files from The Canadian Press