Cover story: The PQ’s stunning coup

Recruiting one of Canada’s most powerful tycoons has given the separatists a real chance


In this week’s cover story, Quebec bureau chief Martin Patriquin looks at how the Parti Québécois recruited media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau and what it means for the separatists in the upcoming election.

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The Parti Québécois has long been a party of principled losers. The act of losing—elections, referendums, its leaders—is practically ingrained in the party’s DNA. Consider René Lévesque’s humiliating loss of the 1980 referendum and his subsequent shivving by party brass when he dared question the PQ’s sovereignty raison-d’être. Consider how every PQ leader in his wake has left the party under a similar cloud of bitterness and loss. Consider, as current PQ Leader Pauline Marois has clearly done, how the PQ’s stubbornly leftist base has shackled its leader to an equally stubborn (if unofficial) mantra: being ideologically correct is more important than any electoral win.

No more. Over the latter half of her 18 months in power, Premier Marois has done the near-impossible: squelched infighting and silenced dissent within the PQ’s ranks, pivoted away from her own party’s social democratic underpinnings and pushed forward with a contentious campaign on Quebec identity that has nonetheless put her party within reach of a majority government for the first time in more than a decade.

Marois has now punctuated her transformation by recruiting media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau, former Quebecor CEO and arguably Quebec’s best-known, most notorious businessman. Péladeau the businessman has media holdings within and beyond Quebec, and has spent his career being coy on Quebec’s national question—if only to better do business in both official languages. Péladeau the politician put an end to the ambiguity at a news conference announcing his candidacy in the suburban riding of Saint-Jérôme. “My support of the Parti Québécois is a support of my deepest-held and most personal values, and that is to make Quebec a country,” he said, pumping his right fist in the air.

The French call it coup de theatre, a turn of events so spectacular it changes the dynamics of the entire campaign. Péladeau, 52, brings business bona fides and a conservative bent to the Parti Québécois, and serves as example to the success of the party’s quasi-ethnic nationalist electoral platform. All of this makes him (and the PQ) a contender in Saint-Jérôme and the neighbouring ring of suburban ridings around Montreal, home to large swaths of white, francophone conservative voters key to a PQ majority.

If it was at all ambiguous before, Péladeau’s entry can’t make it any clearer: should Marois win a majority on April 7, Canada will be subject to yet another unity crisis—and some are warning that the federal government is as ill-prepared for such a thing as it was in 1995, when Quebec came within a hair’s breadth of leaving Confederation.

Look for the full story, on newsstands Thursday.


Cover story: The PQ’s stunning coup

  1. Who’s talking about the Quebec Charter now? This election will be about independence, and should the PQ win a referendum could be very close by, possibly in the fall, question de battre le fer quand il est chaud.

  2. In less than six months there will be a referendun in Quebec and PKP will be the main negotiator! Best of luck to Harper. It’s my five pennies opinion.

  3. Hello all! I live near Montréal. I heard about this issue a few minutes ago. Did not read the article yet. But the choosen word ” Broken” about Canada makes me laugh. Suppose Quebec becomes independent. No borders. Transport is not changed. Geography is not broken. Nine provinces and one more country. Whats the fuss? Is Canada so weak to be broken by only one province? If so, then, Québec and Canada need to study philosophy in order to reinforce the thinking capacities.. A country is as strong as its individuals are individually solids and ontologically independant. I wish you happiiness! Don’t worry, be happy!!!

    • I don’t recall a country that when confronted with a province (state, area, what have you) that attempts to break away, is not plunged into a civil war. On the other hand I believe that if a civil war does happen if Quebec separates, it will be a war between the natives in the north who have already said they will stay in Canada and the intellectuals of the south who push for separation. The south will huff and puff until the power is cut off from James Bay. Unfortunately that means the electricity is cut off to the majority of the north eastern U.S. Then the Americans will become involved and invades Qc. Then they’ll not have any rights.

      • I bet on Civil Peace + democratization of philosophy! Americans cam make their own electricity with magnegas!

        • Americans will find it cheaper to just come and take it. Also without the ROC’s equalization payments coming in, so long cheap everything.

      • I don’t recall a country that when confronted with a province (state, area, what have you) that attempts to break away, is not plunged into a civil war.

        Two examples:
        Czechoslovakia “divorce”
        Norway secession from Sweden

        • If you don’t think there will be a tussle with the James Bay Cree you may be in for a big surprise. For the ROC we’ll just sit back and watch. We’ll also keep our $billions in equalization payments.

          • I favor Independence… but without sacrifice and violence to get it. I favor a new civilazation of happiness… beleive it or not. L.oisiveté créatrice is a good thing. Ancient Romans called it Otium. Its time to think about a joyful society whcih would not cost that much, being based on Being and not on materialism. We need a deep optimistic philosohpy whuch turns away from grey thinking and sadness. Good day.): Good energy, good health.

          • I didn’t say that at all. I was just pointing out that there are examples that avoided civil war.

            And, definitely not advocating for separatism.

  4. It will be interesting to see how a right winger will fit in with the PQ. I’m guessing this will blow up spectacularly, though I can’t say I care much.

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  6. I suspect a year from now the headline will read “The PQ’s Stunned Coup”

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  9. All this hand wringing on the part of ROCers is getting downright annoying. In this intense focus on what PKP’s effect on the sovereignity debate, everyone seems to have forgotten that Marois never intended to run on the issue. The plan was to solidify her lead with the secularism debate. Why? Because the majority of Quebecers are against sovereignity.

    So what do you think is going to happen on April 7th if the PQ doesn’t regain control of their messaging and push sovereignty back under the carpet? Quebecers will put the Liberals back in power, that’s what will happen.

  10. Quebec is the spoiled 25 year old living in the basement who pays no rent and complains about what is for dinner. Cut them loose. With the provincial debt, their pro rated portion of National Debt (should be more based on transfer payments but we will cut the slackers a break) and cancellation of their transfer (welfare) payments, this “country” will be Venezuela within 24 months. Can’t wait to see them starve. We are cutting off your 8 billion per year allowance and it is never coming back. Good riddance.

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