QUEBEC – Newly-elected Parti Quebecois leader Pierre Karl Peladeau may be in for a short honeymoon as some of his political opponents were already sniping at him a day after he handily won the PQ leadership.
Premier Philippe Couillard tweeted he had called Peladeau to congratulate him, shortly after he won his party’s leadership Friday night with 57.6 per cent of the ballots cast. Francois Legault, the leader of the opposition party Coalition for Quebec’s Future, also took to social media to congratulate Peladeau, tweeting “our political ideas differ, but your commitment merits respect.”
The two leaders left the partisan work to their underlings who took aim again at Peladeau on a number of fronts, including his staunch pro-sovereignty views and his refusal to sell his controlling interest in media giant Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B).
In his victory speech, Peladeau reiterated his main political goal of achieving Quebec independence, telling delegates on Friday that they have given him a “strong and clear mandate — to make Quebec a country.”
Quebec’s labour minister accused Peladeau of being out of touch with Quebecers.
“Mr Peladeau entered politics for only one reason: to achieve Quebec separation,” said Sam Hamad. “The choice of the pequistes is the separation of Quebec. The choice of Quebecois is the economy and jobs.”
Francoise David and Andres Fontecilla, co-spokespersons for Quebec Solidaire another Quebec opposition party, described Peladeau as anti-unionist and divisive.
“His style is not unifying, he polarizes,” David said in a news release.
They also said the media mogul is not the man to lead the traditionally left-leaning Parti Quebecois to independence.
“One man will not achieve Quebec independence,” Fontecilla said. “Especially if that man’s social and economic vision don’t correspond to that of the majority.”
A member of Legault’s Coalition legislative caucus resurrected criticism over Peladeau’s promise to put his shares in Quebecor in a blind trust. Francois Bonnardel said that isn’t good enough.
“[Peladeau] will rapidly have to address his untenable position of being PQ leader and the owner of 40 per cent of Quebec’s media,” said Bonnardel an opposition member of the legislature.
“We reiterate that he must make a choice between the two,” he added.
Peladeau’s predecessors at the PQ helm lined up behind the new leader.
Former premier Bernard Landry, one of Peladeau’s strongest supporters, expressed hope the new PQ leader could steer the party to a referendum victory.
“Tonight, he gave us hope,” he said Friday night.
Former premier Pauline Marois, who was not present at the vote, send out a statement congratulating Peladeau and his team.
“I will always be at their sides to convince Quebec citizens to give themselves a country, our country,” she wrote.
Former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe said Peladeau had the potential to become a great leader who would attract support from the business community while current Bloc leader Mario Beaulieu said Peladeau’s victory was the start of “a new independantist wave.”
The question of whether Peladeau can lead the province to nationhood will not be answered for several years, as the next election is not scheduled until 2018.
The high-profile new leader’s goal will be to improve on the 2014 result, where the Parti Quebecois received only 25 per cent of the vote — its worst showing since 1970.
By Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press