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A widely read opinion article on PKP and the question of his shares in Québecor (#271)

The following is a commentary article written by Sébastien St-François.

The article has been published by the Huffington Post Québec.  It also appears on Mr. St-François’ own blog:  http://parlonspolitique.net/

Mr. St-François has appeared on numerous media platforms in Québec as a political commentator, and I believe his articles resonate with many people.

I tend to agree with Mr. St-François’ assessment.  I also invoked a related argument when it appeared possible that Mr. Péladeau may be trying to sow a seed of bitter discontent between the population of Québec and the population of Alberta/Canada by way of his funding of the now defunct Sun News Network TV station (to the tune of $16 million / year).   I wrote about that situation in the post entitled No way! Le Figaro”.  

I asked Mr. St-François for permission to translate his latest article and to re-post it on my site.   He graciously granted permission (to which I am grateful).   The following is a translated version of his article.

The original French-language blog post can be consulted at: http://parlonspolitique.net/2015/05/19/pkp-remporte-sa-mise/


With PKP’s win having played out… Now what?

Well, it’s done.    After the first round of voting, Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP) won with 57.6% of the votes in what all predicted was his to win.  Pierre Karl Péladeau has hence become the eighth leader of the party founded by René Lévesque in 1968 – one with the goal of making Québec a country.   Jean-Marc Fournier [a provincial Liberal cabinet member] can continue to play his broken record that the Parti Québécois is in fact “Party Québecor”Sam Hamad [another provincial Liberal cabinet minister] can continue to sing the same old tune “… what matters for us is the economy and jobs”.   With the goal of his re-election, Philippe Couillard [the Liberal premier] will not allow us to overlook the fact that the 2018 election will be about another referendum.    La Belle Province will yet again continue to be paralysed by the same old squabbling between Sovereignists and Federalists.

As you would expect, the Liberals must be overjoyed with the idea of having, for the next three years, a media baron as the head of the official opposition.   With respect to François Legault’s Caquistes [the informal name given to members of the right-of-centre federalist CAQ, the second opposition party, with François Legault as their head], they would likely never admit it, but the Parti Québécois (PQ) with PKP as its head can turn out to be a bad thing for the CAQ in 2018.  On the other hand, PKPs crowning could be a good thing for Québec solidaire [the third opposition party; far left-of-centre & sovereignist], precisely because those who voted for the PQ’s far left leadership candidate Martine Ouellet or left-of-centre leadership candidate Alexandre Cloutier do not view PKP as one of their own.   One could go so far as to even question if Bernard Drainville [a high-profile PQ leadership candidate who “unhappily” dropped out of the race] will decide to remain in his seat as an elected PQ member.   You could not help but notice his low-hanging head last Friday [during the leadership election event in Québec City].  Many are left to wonder if he is a ruined man.

I am not a supporter of the Parti Québécois, but had I been, I would have been one of those who had hoped for a second round of voting which would have squared Alexandre Cloutier against PKP.   I personally would have voted for Cloutier.  Cloutier was both the youngest, and the most experienced of all the leadership contenders.  He wound up achieving a more-than-honourable percentage of the final vote; 29.2%.  It comes as a surprise that only 72.9% of eligible PQ voters availed themselves of their right to vote.  I would have expected a higher voter turnout considering the importance of what is at stake for the PQ.   One should not lose sight of the fact that in April 2014, the PQ suffered the worst election results in their 46 year history.

But destiny had it that the PQ membership would now chose PKP.  The “hardest of the hardcore”, those who have been fighting for their country for decades, have overlooked the elephant in the room.  They have decided that PKP is their best bet to quench their separatist** thirst [**note that the author used the word “indépendantiste”, which in English has a connotation half way between “separatist” and “sovereignist”, but which is a word which does not exist in English].    That is to say, “You gave me a strong, clear mandate, that of making Québec a country.”  Yet, Mr. Péladeau should not forget that this mandate was given to him by less than 30,000 Québécois (71,000 PQ members x 72,9% x 57,6%).  This leaves him with a colossal amount of work in order to obtain a general mandate from the people of Québec – of which he acts as if he has already obtained (and one which would chisel Québec out of the Canadian federation).

Notwithstanding the mandate which he believes he has obtained, Pierre Karl Péladeau – and the PQ – now have a real problem which needs to be settled… fast.  The “PKP file” will be brought before a parliamentary commission beginning May 26th.   The chances are high that the Liberals will try to turn it into a political court of opinion by trying to “settle the Péladeau file”.   There are equally high chances that it will be an off-the-rails, political debate with low-flying daggers.  But at the end of the day, the question at hand will be of the utmost importance — for Québec’s population, and for our parliamentary system.

Can Pierre Karl Péladeau hold the title of being the leader of the Official Opposition at the National Assembly, all the while being the controlling shareholder of Québecor? [Québecor is a media conglomerate which controls 40% of Québec’s news and entertainment industry].   Yes, Mr. Péladeau undertook to place his Québecor shares in a blind trust.  That would be the normal expectation.  However, can he reserve the right to prevent his trustee from selling his shares while PKP is supposed have no right of control?  That is the point of a blind trust.  And there is the true question.

There is something surreal when we see how PQ members vehemently defend PKP’s current trusteeship pledge.  I say this because several years ago the same PQ members forced Liberal minister David Whissell to sell his simple asphalt company in the name of an apparent conflict of interest.  To quote Stéphane Bergeron (the PQ parliamentary leader at the time):  “Public perception frowns upon this situation, and the population will agree it is problematic.  It will raise questions.  It does raise questions”.   Yet, today’s question is one which looks squarely at this media giant – one with tentacles reaching all across Québec.  We’re in this one with both feet… and that could even be an understatement!

In addition, we recently learned from the President of Québecor’s executive counsel, the former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, that Mr. Péladeau will continue to exercise an advisory role “from time to time” with respect to the company under this trusteeship.  Following PKP’s victory last Friday, this situation has become even more worrisome.

Pierre Karl Péleadeau’s win has played itself out as we expected.   He has become the head of the Parti Québécois.  He now has his sights squarely fixed on the Premier’s office so as to bring his dream, and that of hard-core separatists to fruition.  Regardless if we respect PKP as a person or not, it remains his fundamental right to try to play his political hand.  However, considering what is at stake and his ultimate goal, he must divest himself of his shares in Québecor, or at a very minimum, renounce any involvement in the management of those shares.   He cannot have his cake and eat it too.


Paul Arcand (#176)

Paul  Arcand is one of Québec’s best known opinion-maker talk-show radio hosts, and is best known in the Montréal area (where his daily radio show is broadcast).  However, unlike many other Québec opinion makers, he rarely aligns himself with controversial subjects, and he keeps his show relevant to what the vast majority of people can relate to.  It is one of the reasons why he is so popular, and in this sense, he is associated with being a man of the common people.

He has been on the radio for 35 years.  Paul Arcand would be the first person many people in Québec would think of when their thoughts turn to Québec talk radio (simply by virtue that the region in which he is broadcast contains over half of Québec’s population).

To give you an idea of his popularity, this past week, the internet in Québec was abuzz regarding Paul Arcand “losing it” on the radio when he heard his name being used (not very flatteringly) in a radio advertisement for a product. (If you’re learning French, “losing it” or “freaking out” can be referred to as “péter une coche”).  In short, Arcand did not give his consent for his name to be used in the advertisement.  Needless to say, he did not take too kindly to the idea of his own station played such an advertisement, and he let his station have it on air.

It became one of the most viewed news stories of the week in Québec, which attests to his popularity with the public (this would not have been a story had someone less popular made a deal of a similar issue).  Like I mentioned earlier, probably the reason why he is so popular is because his approach to topics, and the way he presents them resonates so well with the public (as does any popular radio host).

He hosts the morning show, “Puisqu’il faut se lever” (Since you have to get up) on 98,5 FM Montréal.   It should therefore come as no surprise that he is the voice who many people in Montréal listen to while getting ready for work or during their morning commute.

98,5 FM’s official website is:  http://www.985fm.ca/

You can listen to 98,5 FM at the above link.

Paul Arcand’s morning radio show can be listed to as an online re-broadcast at http://www.985fm.ca/em/puisqu-il-faut-se-lever-391.html

If you’re learning French, perhaps try listening to Arcand’s shows online for a week or two.  See if it helps with your comprehension skills.   The language he uses is at an average speed, but it not overly filled with Joual or slang.   This might be a good way to ease yourself from “news reporter” French, towards more “street informal” French.  In addition, the topics he discusses and how he discusses them are relevant and should also be of interest to the average Anglophone Canadian.

If you find you listen to 98,5 FM on a regular basis, they have a downloadable app which works quite as well (it covers all the Cogeco FM network radio stations – a grouping of various talk show radio stations in different cities of Québec).

Enjoy the programs!



Guy A. Lepage (#4)

Guy A. Lepage was mentioned in this blog’s first post as being the host of Tout le monde en parle.

Where does one begin (or end) when talking about Guy A. Lepage?  From a pop-culture point-of-view, he has a long list of accomplishments – a force unto himself over a period of 30 years, with wide reaching appeal in Quebec culture (but from his youthful looks and energy levels, you’d never guess he was born in 1960!).

It would take a book to write about the number of cultural and popular awards he has won, or just how well-known he is with Francophones.

In pop-culture, there are past references we can all recall from when we were younger;  references you can joke about any time, and have them instantly understood by your peers.  These shared experiences create a feeling of belonging, commonality, and sense of “yah, I remember that — yes, we are cut from the same mould – , and yes, we get each other in a way nobody from another culture could”.

That’s why pop-culture is an important building block to nationhood in the social sense.  In an English-Canadian context, an example of might be the “Chicken Lady” from Kids in the Hall.  Despite how long the show has been off air, many Anglophone Canadians in their 30’s or 40’s (maybe even 50’s) would instantly understand the context if you mimicked the Chicken Lady.   Even regurgitating that the “Polkaroo” call from Polkadot Door makes for instant recognition — a bonding feeling of “Yah, I get you… we’re definately hatched from the same nest!” (mention Polkaroo to someone in Prince George, Moose Jaw, Windsor, or St. John and you’ll get the same nod and smile).

Guy Lepage has appeared in so many popular programmes, on so many different media platforms, that it could be said he has been a source of many Québec pop-culture references over the past 30 years.   He has become a bonding figure for Québec pop-culture and society in general through the major events in Québec during that period.   That’s a powerful force in all senses of the word.  Whether it’s on purpose of inadvertent, pop-culture holds sway and influence over public opinion on a range of issues.  Being at the helm of numerous programmes also means one has a degree of control over the business and economic end of what the public will see when they turn on their television or radio in the evening.

He rose to stardom as one of the main actors in the regularly aired comedy group Rock et belles oreilles (simply known as RBO).  It ran for nearly 15 years on TV.  For comparison sake, its presentation style was similar to that of Kids in the HallKids in the Hall could be considered risqué for its time, often making fun of issues like sex and homosexuality, at a time when it was daring to touch upon those subjects on TV — let alone make fun of the issues (remember the “anal probes”?).  In a national sense, the programme probably played some role in pushing the envelope of public awareness and acceptability.

With that reference in mind, RBO also used humour during the same era, but to a broader and deeper degree (sexual inuendo,  homosexuality, politics, sovereignty issues, Anglophones, Francophones, public figures of all streams and colours, and various ethical issues).   The majority of the sketches may not have been overly controversial, but by integrating humour into sensitive topics, RBO captivated the province and drew in the masses.

Since the programme disbanded, the actors went their separate ways and continued on various paths of stardom.  But none of them achieved the status of Guy Lepage today.

In the early 2000s, he became more focused on the actual production of TV programmes.   He created the Québec version of the France TV programme Un gars une fille, which ran weekly on Radio-Canada from 1997 to 2003.   Apart from being the producer, Guy was also the main co-actor.   The show became supremely popular, centered on the funny and quirky dynamics between a husband (played by Lepage) and his wife.  The success of the series cannot be underestimated. It’s one of the most internationally prize-winning TV series in Canadian history, and has been adapted and copied in 26 other countries, more so than most any other TV programme in the history of television — full stop.   With that, Lepage has a larger-than-life status in Québec and francophone pop-culture (it may now be more apparent why I mentioned two posts earlier that there were Francophones seemingly “shocked and horrified” when Le Journal de Montréal poll revealed the vast majority of Anglophone Canadians had absolutely no idea who Lepage was – despite the international accolades he has attracted towards both Québec, and Canada as a whole).

Since Un gars une fille went off the air in 2003, Lepage was further propelled into the sky when he adapted the France TV interview show Tout le monde en parle to create the still-running Québec version, starting in 2004 (the topic of this blog’s first post).

Apart from these achievements, Lepage has been an actor in several movies, he’s been the host of several major TV events (Québec national award ceremonies, annual galas, live televised celebrations, etc.), a stage-actor, an actor in commercials, and the producer of other artistic endeavours (with the TV comedy Les Chick’n Swell also having been galvanized in Québécois collective memory).

One of the most surprising aspects of his career is his brilliance as in interviewer.  Perhaps it is owing to his boldness stemming from his RBO days of pushing the envelope into uncharted territory, or perhaps it is his overall confidence stemming from his contact with all aspects of society – but it’s undeniable that his talents as a provocative, probing, and quick-witted interviewer are quite unique.   There are elements of Québec society who may not agree with the direction he takes his interviews, which battles he picks and choses – or who he choses to single out in interviews (he does have political and social opinions), but few would deny his talent.  He nonetheless deserves much respect and accolade.

With all of this behind him, it’s a wonder Guy A. Lepage has time to sleep.  And with his energy levels and determination, it will be interesting to see what comes next, what it will lead to, and how it will shape Québec society’s collective views.

References to search online to view or read:

  • Tout le monde en parle (TLMEP)
  • Un gars une fille
  • Rock et belles oreilles (RBO)

Radio-Canada sells past programmes in various formats.  Please do not pirate.

Tout le monde en parle (#1)

“Tout le monde en parle” (Everyone is talking about it) is Québec’s most watched weekly television program (with millions of viewers per episode).  The viewer numbers are so large, that it actually is not an exaggeration to say the streets of Québec and Francophone Canada are quiet on Sunday evenings because everyone is inside watching the program.

The show regularly interviews headline news makers, and often in a controversial manner.   The irony is because the interviews are so audacious, Tout le monde en parle itself regularly becomes Québec’s headline news story the day after it airs.  There has been nothing quite like it in Canadian or Québec history (and possibly nothing like it in the history of North American television).

It is a long-running TV interview show (since 2004), filmed in front of a live-audience, broadcast once a week (two hours every Sunday evening, from 8pm to 10pm) on Radio-Canada.  It is broadcast across Canada – thus regardless where you are in the country, you will be able to watch it.  It is not broadcast during the summer.   It was created by household-name Guy A. Lepage (one of Quebec’s best known actors, comedians, and interviewers).

It takes the format of Guy, and his sidekick Danny Turcot, interviewing well-known personalities from cultural, media, news, or political spheres — sitting at a table opposite to the hosts.  Topics are most always on current events related to those being invited.  Several invitees will often appear in one show, sitting side-by-side.  Often the invitees will have opposing points of views.  Because of this configuration, sparks can sometimes fly, and unexpected debates can ensue, especially if the opposing views of the invitees are of an emotional nature (think politics, or ethical issues).

The program often has heavy societal, social, and political overtones — often shrouding subjects in a serious overtone.   The host has entrenched political views, and his questions can become very pointed, critical and less-than-subtle (aimed at both friends and foes alike).   However, regardless of the host’s own political or social views (which do come through on the show – there is no doubt about it) Guy A. Lepage plays it cool, adds a lot of humour, and it makes for a great entertainment factor.

The program also provides the audience with a rare chance to see celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers in either a relaxed setting, or under the heat (questions and criticism of the invitees can become very unbalancing — which is precisely one of the reasons the show is so popular).   For this reason, it’s one of the highest rated, and best known television shows in Quebec — hence “Everyone is talking about it”.

The most famous names in society appear on the program, but even if someone is not so well known, they will be a household name after appearing on the show (in the hours running up to the show’s airing, Lepage has even been known to tell lesser known guests to get ready to become a household name and recognized everywhere as soon as the show goes to air).

Because of popularity of the interviewees, this is one of those shows which is a sure-fire fast-track to familiarize oneself with popular topics and people being currently discussed in Quebec society during at the office water-cooler, among friends, or in the news.

For Anglophone Canadians, it is also a great way to improve your level of French (you’ll find guests speak with a mix of styles of French, be it standard québécois, local accents, and sometimes joual).

– The show’s official website is http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/tout-le-monde-en-parle/2014-2015/

– The show’s wikipedia article has highlights of some of the better known moments: