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The following is a commentary article written by Sébastien St-François.
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, PKP’s 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.