To say that Pierre Karl Péladeau’s announcement that he’s running for the Parti Québécois was a bombshell would be an understatement. The announcement monopolized the news cycle on Sunday and again on Monday. We’re still talking about it because of its implications. Canada’s largest newspaper chain is owned by a separatist. A media mogul is running for office, and everyone expects the media he owns to stay objective on the matter. And his selection is a huge risk for the PQ, which can ride his economic bona fides to power or see itself torn apart by ideological differences (whether or not it wins a majority).
His media outlets insist in French and in English that he has no control over them. Sun News handled the news straight, declaring that they too are not under Péladeau’s control. Here’s Brian Lilley and here’s Lorrie Goldstein. (Ezra Levant is fighting a libel lawsuit and hasn’t been on the air.)
There are news stories and analyses of Péladeau all over the place, but here are a few that are worth reading:
- Martin Patriquin of Maclean’s on the up side and down side of a Péladeau candidacy, and how it has changed the PQ.
- Vincent Marissal on how PQ candidates who were harshly critical of Quebecor in the past have pulled a 180 and are forced to pretend to like Péladeau. A similar recap from Denis Lessard.
- Chantal Hébert writes the most eloquently about the fact that Péladeau has to see himself becoming premier (or even prime minister of an independent Quebec) soon, but that holding together this unlikely coalition of left-leaning unionists and right-wing business people will be difficult even if they win.
- Andrew Coyne on how PKP is a businessman first, and everything else second.
- La Presse interviews PKP, which is a story in and of itself. Vincent Brousseau-Pouliot asks him whether he voted PQ (he won’t say) and if he thinks Quebec would be better off economically as an independent country (he gives an indirect answer, then says a somewhat qualified yes).
- Sophie Cousineau in the Globe on the business angle, how difficult it is to get successful businessmen into politics
- Bloomberg points out that the federal government welcomed Quebecor as a possible fourth national wireless company. Now, with Quebecor technically owned by a separatist, does the Conservative government have to distance itself from Quebecor?
- Patrick Lagacé talks to PKP friend Michael Fortier about whether Péladeau would be happy in his new position (Fortier says he doesn’t think so). Lagacé also points out how journalists (including himself) avoid talking about their employer, and how Péladeau’s continued ownership of Quebecor Media puts journalists in an awkward position.
- Henry Aubin (he’s back!) on how Péladeau is “uniquely qualified” to be the new leader of an independent Quebec. I’m not sure if this column is meant to be satire.
- Stéphane Baillargeon in Le Devoir compares PKP to Rupert Murdoch, talks to a professor about the ethics around him running for office, and includes a statement from an executive at the Journal de Montréal union saying they have no complaints about Péladeau interfering in the editorial activities of its members.
- Katia Gagnon in La Presse writes Péladeau’s biography, painting him as a micromanaging workaholic, and speaking to various anonymous former managers at Quebecor attesting to the fact that he does get involved in editorial matters.
— Angelica Montgomery (@ajmontgomery) March 9, 2014
— Journal de Montréal (@JdeMontreal) March 11, 2014
Other tidbits to keep in mind about Péladeau’s candidacy:
- Quebecor is in the process of selling 74 community newspapers in Quebec to rival Transcontinental (TC Media). This will inevitably lead to mergers and shutdowns where both Quebecor and TC had competing papers. Among those markets is St-Jérôme, where PKP is running for office. Let’s hope that deal doesn’t close before voting day.
- Quebecor’s ownership of media in Canada could come under question if Péladeau reaches his goal of independence. The CRTC doesn’t allow broadcasters (like Sun News Network) to be owned by non-Canadians, and Canadian tax laws make it impractical for print media (like the Toronto Sun or 24 Hours) to be owned by non-Canadians.
- Dominique Payette, she of the report to the government pushing for official recognition of a journalist status, welcomes PKP to the party she is also running for, even though her report made clear that the kind of stuff that Quebecor is doing is contributing to the media crisis.
- Claudette Carbonneau, who was head of the CSN union during its two-year conflict with Quebecor over the Journal de Montréal lockout, has conveniently gone silent. She’s on a commission looking into the 2012 student conflict. She was appointed to it, controversially, by the PQ government.
- Patrick Lagacé points out how the FTQ was perfectly happy to deal with Péladeau even though it now condemns him.
- Be glad you’re not handling social media for Videotron this week. Its Facebook page is inundated with comments from people (particularly anglophones) who have cancelled their subscriptions or say they will, despite repeated assurances that Péladeau has nothing to do with running the company any more. It has decided to keep the page open to comments, mainly because Videotron handles a lot of its customer service that way.
- The right-wing Prince Arthur Herald said in December that Péladeau would be a candidate for the PQ in St-Jérôme. Just a lucky guess? La Presse speaks with the reporter.
- CJAD’s Aaron Rand thinks to disclose that he works for Bell, so offers a list of Internet service providers to choose instead of Videotron.
- Pierre Schneider, a former Journal de Montréal manager, says Péladeau is not the worst employer in history, and rants about excessively pro-worker aspects of the collective agreement at the paper before the 2009 lockout.
Suggested campaign song: Cos I'm P.K.P. I'm Dynamite P.K.P. And I'll win the fight P.K.P. I'm a power-load P.K.P. Watch me explode
— J. Kelly Nestruck (@nestruck) March 10, 2014