The PQ paves the way for a robber baron

The party has quadrupled the price of a leadership run and essentially ignored the issue of PKP’s media ownership.


Mr. Potter

Writing about the Parti Québécois for a mostly anglo audience is a little like writing about Muslims in the Journal de Montréal. There is an inherent antipathy that colours many readers’ perspectives to the point where, as I once suggested, Pauline Marois could have led the Habs to the Stanley Cup and most anglos would criticize her for not having done it sooner.

I am not that kind of anglo. The Parti Québécois has played a critical role in the development of the province and had instituted a lot of positive reforms over the years. Despite its huge setbacks at the polls last spring, the party continues to be a major player in Quebec politics and its choice of a new leader to replace Marois will greatly affect its electoral chances — and how any future government might deal with the anglophone minority here.

The still-undeclared frontrunner in what will be an unholy eight-month-long leadership campaign is Pierre Karl Péladeau. A year ago, a Journal de Montréal poll suggested that only 30 per cent of Quebec anglos even knew who he was. Here’s a man who controls a huge media empire, including the cable network a lot of us use to watch TV and the free newspaper you get handed every morning in the metro, and only one in three anglos knew any more about him than they did pop star Marie-Mai (whose record label and agency are also owned by PKP).

No, PKP’s political pop-star didn’t rise for anglos until that fateful day in March when, after being announced as the PQ candidate in St. Jérôme, he raised his fist in the air and declared he wanted to make Quebec a country.

He was supposed to be the “candidat vedette” who would push the PQ into majority territory and give the independence cause new credence in financial circles, but he ended up being the albatross that helped drive the party out of office and into third-party status at the National Assembly.

You would think the party might have learned something from that fiasco. Mais non. Instead, after Marois graciously slipped into the retirement that PKP had always planned for her, sooner or later, one of the first things party brass did was keep out the riff-raff by increasing the cost of running to replace her. The $5,000 non-refundable deposit that Marois and her competitors paid when she ran in 2007 was hiked to $20,000 — plus another $5,000 if the vote goes to a second ballot. Pocket change for PKP, much like the increased $400,000 spending cap the party placed on campaign expenses.


The party has also — mostly — closed ranks around PKP in debate over whether the the multi-billionaire should be forced to sell his controlling interests in his media empire as a precondition to becoming Premier.

Péladeau has rejected this idea from Day One, arguing that placing his interests in a “blind trust,” managed by a trustee over whom he would have no influence, would suffice. Now that might work just fine if he was an average investor with his retirement nest-egg scattered among a bunch of mutual funds and conservative stock choices. But Péladeau’s holdings include the province’s largest newspapers, television and cable channels and its only French-language news wire agency.

You can be pretty sure that whoever is managing the blind trust won’t be selling off the PKP inheritance to buy shares in Google. A normal blind trust is a little like handing your ignition keys to a professional driver with no idea where they might take it. PKP’s blind trust would be like handing someone the trunk keys to a fleet of vehicles with instructions to wax them every Wednesday.

So here we are hitting these huge potholes before we’ve even gotten into a debate over Péladeau’s ideology or plans for PQ under his leadership. Nevertheless, I’m going to try to tackle those questions for Péladeau and a few of his key opponents from time to time in the coming weeks, even though I know the chances that any of you will be casting ballots in this race are about as good as my chances of leading the Habs to their 25th Cup. ■

Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist and stand-up comic. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear on Cult MTL every week. You can contact him by Email or follow him on Twitter.