PKP to keep his Quebecor shares
Published Monday, March 10, 2014 12:42PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 10, 2014 6:52PM EDT
Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois said Monday that star candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau should not have to sell his shares in the Quebecor media empire, even if the ethics commissioner of the National Assembly is encouraging him to do so.
When Peladeau announced his candidacy to become the PQ MNA for St. Jerome on Sunday, he said he had placed his shares in a blind trust, adding he gave clear instructions not to sell under any circumstances.
When reporters and critics pointed out that the PQ frequently criticized former Liberal MNA David Whissell over his ownership of shares in an asphalt company, Marois said rules now were stricter.
"All the members of my cabinet will respect the laws on ethics, will respect the obligation of the commissioner of ethics, and if there is something more to do we will evaluate the situation," said Marois.
Peladeau said he was following the example of former prime minister Paul Martin, who kept his shares of Canada Steamship Lines in a blind trust during his time in office.
“I think of Paul Martin. When he was prime minister he put all his economic interests in a blind trust, so why there should be a difference here?” he said.
Even with shares in blind trust, Peladeau, if he is elected and appointed a cabinet minister, would have to recuse himself from debates and votes that affected his personal wealth.
The Ethics Commissioner said he had already met with Peladeau and representatives, instructing them that companies owned in part by MNAs are not allowed to do business with the government, and that MNAs must not place themselves in a conflict of interest regarding his or her independent judgment in carrying out the duties of office.
However because Quebecor is a public company, commissioner Jacques St-Laurent said there was no precedent for such a dominating shareholder being an MNA.
St-Laurent expected to have another meeting with Peladeau later this week.
Peladeau resigned Sunday from a number of companies with which he held senior positions, including Quebecor Media and Hydro-Quebec.
Quebecor Media owns 40 per cent of media in Quebec, including Videotron, TVA, a slew of newspapers and the Sun network. He remains the majority shareholder in Quebecor with $700 million in shares.
Peladeau’s jump to politics is sparking some unexpected consequences for one of his former companies, however.
Many people have taken to social media to say they will not support Videotron due to the candidate’s commitment to a sovereign Quebec. Some said they cancelled their contracts with the company.
Peladeau responded to the complaints by saying he is no longer affiliated with Videotron, and that the company has a proven track record.
The company issued a statement on Sunday, explaining that Peladeau will “no longer take part in any decisions respecting the corporation's daily or strategic management.”
“Through Videotron, Quebecor will continue delivering the best possible customer experience.”
Quebec solidaire critical
Former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe revealed Monday that Peladeau called him two hours before the announcement, and that Duceppe welcomed it for the PQ and the sovereignty cause.
“It was excellent news for me because I think we have to have people from different horizons. A real coalition - this is what we need,” said Duceppe.
Even Liberals said that unlike Premier Marois, at least Peladeau’s declaration that he wants a nation his children can be proud of is straight up.
"At least I have to say, Mr. Peladeau was clear. (He said), ‘I want not only a referendum, I want a country. Quebec is going to be a country.’ Sorry, we already have a country. That country is Canada," said Liberal candidate Robert Poeti.
Not all sovereignists trust Peladeau; Quebec solidaire candidate Molly Alexander points to his ties to the federal government.
“I don’t know that it's very sincere. We all know that Peladeau is friends with Stephen Harper,” she said, adding that Peladeau’s alignment with the PQ means the party has taken a turn to the right and away from workers.
“This is the nail in the coffin for the PQ as far as their natural allies of the worker that they’ve always tried to be and always pretended to be,” she said.
Quebec solidaire MNA Amir Khadir agreed.
“Workers have rights and these rights have to be improved and protected, not attacked by corporate business leaders like Pierre Karl Peladeau,” he said.
Peladeau locked out journalists at the CSN-affiliated Journal de Montreal for two years.
Quebec solidaire now hopes to capitalize on the PQ’s alienation of many of its members.
“Across Quebec we've been getting letters from people who voted all their lives for the PQ saying I've ripped my card. I'm going to vote for QS. To me this is the end of my relationship with the PQ,” said Alexander.
Referendum a certainty: Couillard
Meanwhile Liberal leader Philippe Couillard said Peladeau's candidacy is a sure sign the PQ are itching to hold a third referendum on independence.
"I will repeat the same thing every day. Two things, first the fundamental that is the ballot question. The election is on the separation of Quebec. Don't be mistaken, this is the ballot question," said Couillard, adding that he feels Peladeau embracing sovereignty will backfire.
“For someone in business to be there advocating the separation of Quebec is nonsense. The economic consequences will be very negative for Quebec, for jobs and real people,” said Couillard.
At a campaign stop in Quebec City, he said that Peladeau's decision to represent the PQ had serious ramifications for media coverage in Quebec, given Peladeau's reputation as a micro-manager over the Quebecor TV and newspaper brands.
Perhaps more importantly for some voters, Couillard said Peladeau's candidacy was putting the chances of Quebec City being granted an NHL team.
Peladeau, along with Quebec City mayor Regis Labeaume, were the key players in convincing the previous Liberal government of funding a new arena in the hopes the NHL would return to Quebec.