Pierre Karl Peladeau, formerly the union-busting head of Quebecor media, which includes the Sun Media holdings and Fox news Canada, and also more recently head of Quebec Hydro, is now a candidate for the Parti Quebecois in St. Jerome riding, for the upcoming April 7th provincial election.
Naturally pundits are observing that his signing on to the PQ is somewhat surprising, even ironic, given the party's history and tradition of labour support, and social democratic leanings. Some are wondering if M. Peladeau wants to become the premier of Quebec and others are pointing out that his candidacy lends credibility to the PQ's bid to bring a more fiscally conservative voter into the fold, generating conditions favourable to a YES result in another referendum on sovereignty.
Declaring, "I am a sovereignist!" Peladeau gives a kind of respectability among the business class, to the PQ's hopes and aspirations of taking Quebec out of Canada, and forming an independent state.
As one pundit on CTV's Question Period put it yesterday, "I'm from the Maritimes and frequently I hear from people there, 'If Quebec wants to go, then let it'....(because they are tired of attempting to pander to that province, are the words and resignation in her expression).
We have in this election, and in Peladeau's candidacy, the potential for a perfect storm favouring the PQ's hopes for sovereignty. First, the rest of Canada is apathetic about working hard to preserve the nation as we know it. Second, Harper's federal government, and Harper personally are both running very low in Quebec opinion polls, and third, with a new Liberal leader in Quebec, who is much less well known than Jean Charest, the former leader, and both the Liberals and the PQ eagerly wooing the votes of those who currently prefer the third party (CAQ, a much more fiscally conservative federal party with perhaps 15-20% of the popular vote), the outcome of that pull, whether those votes go to the PQ or the Liberals, or remain with the CAQ, could well determine the outcome of the April 7th vote.
Should the PQ gain a majority, not only will the Charter of Rights and Values, prohibiting religious garb from being worn by public servants at work, become the law of the province, but there is little doubt that a referendum will emerge as the culmination of thirty-five years of work by the Parti Quebecois to achieve what two previous referenda have failed to produce, a formal declaration with negotiations with Canada, for an separate independent state or nation.
It is Peladeau's endorsement of the sovereignty movement, bringing, one assumes, some of his 'conservative' and union busting business peers into the PQ, at a time when support for Quebec's federalist aspirations outside the province are running at an all-time low, that is especially troubling, even though formal support for sovereignty is running around 40% in Quebec, not adequate to win a referendum at this time. However, pushing that number over 50% would certainly not be an insurmountable challenge, given a majority government for the PQ on April 7th.
This space has spent some time opposing the establishment of Fox news in Canada, given our left-leaning views, and now that Peladeau is one of those, a prominent Quebecer where 'star' political leaders have always had more traction than in many other Canadian regions, who seeks to dismember my country, we will be watching carefully, and opposing every move taken by the PQ, and its new and potentially convincing candidate, in the hope and the belief that Canada remain as a country that embraces all provinces, regions and indigenous and immigrant cultures and languages.
There is a theme running through John Ralston Saul's book, Canada, Fair Country, that points to the three-legged stool on which Canada is based, English, French and First Nation; Saul also points out a significant difference between both Europe and the United States and Canada, that is best illustrated in the Canadian 'circle' that opens to welcome new-comers into the circle, and is must less hierarchical that the United States and Europe. Quebec may now be at a historic juncture, having to choose to follow its European roots, as the United States has done, and rejecting what Saul considers one of the most significant and valued traits of Canada, its inclusivity, and its flattened and non-hierarchical circle.
Clearly, the charismatic leader, one of which is clearly Peladeau, will play more dramatically and potentially both more endearingly and also more divisively in Quebec, and one can only hope that the majority of Quebecers will think seriously before throwing their lot in with the quickly becoming obsolete hierarchical, charismatic social and political structure, and the pursuit of sovereignty and independence.
We are not apathetic about Quebec remaining within Canada; we believe that Canada without Quebec not only changes but loses an essential part of our historic identity and risks even further absorption into the dollar-driven corral of the United States. And that would be a tragedy of a legacy to leave to our grandchildren, especially if it were to occur by default, and apathy, another of the many lesser qualities of Canadians, on which too many politicians can and do count.