PQ’s star candidate a Harper ally?

  • March 20, 2014

A friend in Montreal — I’ll call her Sassy Knoll for her love of conspiracy theories — thinks Pierre-Karl Peladeau and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are in league to torpedo the Parti Quebecois’ chances in the crucial April 7 Quebec election.

What’s that? The billionaire businessman who Quebec Premier Pauline Marois recruited as a star candidate to run for the Parti Quebecois to show an independent Quebec is economically viable?

The self-professed separatist who said he wants “to make Quebec a country” for his children to be proud? This guy is working clandestinely with the Prime Minister? That is some theory.
Before getting to the details of the conspiracy theory, it is worth noting that this Quebec election is important to all Canadians, especially Catholics and those of different faiths. That’s because of the proposed Charter of Quebec Values that will ban anyone working in the public sector from wearing identifiable religious symbols. (And we can’t forget Quebec’s other big secular push towards euthanasia that is in direct contrast to the Church, too.)

Of course, this election is also putting the country directly on course for another Quebec referendum and national unity crisis. So, there is a lot at stake.

I will say this for Quebec’s proposed values charter, it is doing what so many world leaders and Nobel laureates haven’t been able to do: build an alliance between Muslims and Jews. Members of those religions, along with Catholics, Protestants, Hindus and Sikhs, have held prayer services together to protest the values charter. They know that if it passes it will be but the first of growing secular initiatives in Quebec.

So, what of this Peladeau double-agent theory? It goes like this: Peladeau is a hard-core anti-unionist who oversaw 14 lockouts at his various companies before stepping down as CEO (although he still remains Quebecor Inc.’s largest shareholder.)

And the PQ party is a leftist party (Marois has pulled it further right during her seven years as leader and 18 months as premier) but its core is left of centre. A significant portion of PQ voters belong to unions and many of these people will turn and vote Liberal because of Peladeau and he knew that before announcing his candidacy in the riding of Saint-Jerome, according to Sassy Knoll.

“And not only that,” she insists, “but Marois and Peladeau are both micromanagers with healthy egos who are sure to clash.”

I can’t argue with that point, but where does Stephen Harper come into all this? Industry Canada sold plenty of new wireless phone spectrum to Quebecor in February to cover Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

“And Industry Minister James Moore said he believes Quebecor has the capacity now to be the much-needed fourth wireless carrier that Ottawa has been desperately looking for to reduce prices for consumers. All you have to do is watch those TV commercials to see how much Ottawa wants wireless competition. Maybe Harper’s government will also help Peladeau snatch up one or two of those near-bankrupt wireless competitors that it won’t allow Bell, Telus or Rogers to buy,” says Sassy Knoll.

It’s a theory and nothing more. At this point, I will declare my conflict (just as Peladeau will surely be declaring numerous conflicts if he is elected.) Almost 15 years ago, I worked for Peladeau at an online portal called CANOE. He worked out of our Toronto office at least two days a week. I saw firsthand a man who is used to getting what he wants and one who relishes being the boss. (I also saw a kinder side to him when my father died and he sent me a personal note of condolence.)

Marois’ Faustian bargain to recruit Peladeau is so interesting because if she wins a majority, Peladeau is unlikely to be taking orders from her or others; and if she doesn’t win a majority it is hard to imagine Peladeau hanging around as a minister in a minority government or worse, a backbencher in opposition.

Early in the campaign when she shoved Peladeau away from the microphone during a press conference and answered a question directed to him, it clearly showed all is not golden in the PQ camp with their star recruit.

He dutifully moved to the back and stood there sheepishly looking like a schoolboy who was just sent to detention. But one can imagine he was seething inside and wondering what he had gotten himself into. He would have to be an Academy Award-winning actor if he was really thinking at that moment that his plan to torpedo the PQ campaign was playing out as planned between him and Harper.

“Is this the man who will break up Canada?” asked a recent Maclean’s cover over a picture of Peladeau.

Here’s hoping he’s the man to help keep the country together, whether he’s working in cahoots with Ottawa or simply being himself.

(Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont., and can be reached at bob@ abc2.ca.)

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