Pierre Karl Péladeau is in it for the win

If you are a successful corporate mogul making millions of dollars in the prime of life, you likely would not be jumping into the political ring if there was a strong chance of spending four years shouting from the opposition benches of the national assembly.

Parti Québécois's newest star candidate isn't just another big name in Quebec business circles

Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois looks on as Pierre Karl Péladeau gestures during a press conference announcing his candidacy in the riding of Saint-Jérôme. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

As political bombs go, media magnate Pierre Karl Péladeau's leap into the ring is about as big as it gets.

PKP isn't just another big name in Quebec business circles.

He's the biggest name.

The empire started by his father now controls Vidéotron cable, Québecor newspapers including the Journal de Montréal and the Sun chain of newspapers, and Quebec's most-watched television station, TVA.

Beyond that, Péladeau's Hollywood-style relationship with TV celebrity Julie Snyder has helped propel him high into Quebec's star-system stratosphere.

So, for the Parti Québécois to land Péladeau as a candidate is, well, huge.

La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé says this development "might" be a game changer, but also warns a backlash from pro-union factions of the PQ over Péladeau's track record when it comes to labour relations (he was the boss during more than a dozen lock-outs at Québecor companies) may also spark some vote defections.

Already, Québec Solidaire candidate Françoise David is inviting PQ supporters disenchanted by Péladeau's nomination to come to her party, which she describes as "unequivocally sovereigntist and left-leaning."

However, Péladeau is also receiving praise from some unlikely sources. 

Marc Laviolette, who is part of a pro-labour, ultra-sovereigntist faction of the PQ, says the former head of Québecor is a welcome addition to the PQ team, because he will help advance the cause of Quebec's independence.

On Péladeau's image in the eyes of some as a union buster, Laviolette says so be it: This is an election campaign, not a contract negotiation.

Star power

Campaigns are often highlighted by parties touting the star power of their new acquisitions.

In 1998, many will remember the PQ's coup when it persuaded the young, accomplished head of Air Transat to leave the company he helped create, and run.

François Legault became one of the most recognizable faces in Lucien Bouchard's government, taking on top portfolios including health and education during his tenure in government.

In 2003, Jean Charest began the campaign well behind the Parti Québécois in the polls. But by election day, he was soundly ahead. 

Part of the reason? A slate of fresh new candidates with either public notoriety, or rock-solid credentials.

Marc Bellemare, the outspoken and sometimes controversial lawyer won in a swing riding in Quebec City.

Philippe Couillard is sworn in after winning his first election in 2003. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

And, Philippe Couillard, who is now leading the Liberal Party, got his political start as a great Liberal "get" based on his career as an accomplished businessman and neurosurgeon.

But, what makes the biggest difference on election day isn't the star candidate's CV.

Instead, it is the impression their very candidacy leaves with voters.

If you are a successful corporate mogul making millions of dollars in the prime of life, it is tacitly understood you likely would not be jumping into the political ring if there was a strong chance of spending the following four or five years as critic in the opposition benches of the national assembly, screaming questions across the room at a cabinet minister who got the job you want.

It is understood you are making the leap because you strongly believe you will win.

That in turn is a critical ingredient in the momentum the PQ appears to be enjoying in these early days of the campaign— momentum that will persuade some undecided voters who want to back a winner.

About the Author

Tim Duboyce

Tim Duboyce was a news editor at CBC Montreal. He was CBC's correspondent at the Quebec National Assembly from 2003 to 2013, and has covered five Quebec provincial election campaigns.