PKP and the PQ

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Even before he announced he would be a Parti Québécois candidate in the April 7 provincial election, this campaign was already all about Pierre Karl Péladeau and his Quebecor media empire.

As the owner of almost half of all media in Quebec – in print, radio and television – PKP has over the past few years engineered the bizarre cultural panic here over religious minorities and the so-called accommodations they allegedly demand of the white-bread majority in the province.

The fact that a first-generation immigrant may have greeted customers at his tiny Montreal dépanneur in English merited lurid headlines on the front page of his tabloid Journal de Montréal and would lead the news broadcast of his TVA network over the last few years. His media threw massive resources into tracking down and denouncing anything or anybody that didn’t narrowly conform to the dominant culture of white unilingual francophones.

That campaign set the stage for the PQ’s horrific Charter of Secularism, the central issue of this election, and which would chase anyone with visible signs of minority religious faith out of public life. It’s a drastic betrayal of the values of PQ founder René Lévesque, and the attempt to create a civic nationalism not based on race or faith.

So, while many commentators and opposition parties concentrate on Péladeau’s power to affect news coverage as a future member of the Quebec government, the fact is that the damage is already done. His media have been campaigning and intentionally shaping political attitudes for years.

That explains why Péladeau repeatedly lied over the past year, even up to the eve of the election, about his political intentions. He needed to maintain the myth of media independence until forced to at least create the illusion of being hands off once he formally entered the election race.

As one of the richest, and most powerful, businesspeople in Quebec, no one should be under any illusion about his motivation to get his hands on the levers of political power here. Even as he busts unions and advocates devastating cutbacks to public services, Péladeau’s business empire exists as a gift from taxpayers.

After inheriting Quebecor from his legendary father, Pierre Péladeau, Pierre Karl ran the multinational Quebecor World printing division into bankruptcy. But when the cable giant Vidéotron came up for sale, the PQ government of then-premier Bernard Landry forced the Quebec’s pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement to spend $3.2 billion to help Quebecor buy Vidéotron. Our investment is now only worth $1.7 billion, but for Péladeau, the cable company is a license to print money.

Now, of course, taxpayers are building a $400 million arena in Quebec City to give to Péladeau in his quest for an NHL team. Entrepreneurship? Not quite. This is crony capitalism at its worst. It’s hard to imagine someone with a greater sense of entitlement.

Péladeau’s influence has already led to dumping a PQ promise to update the labour code to forbid the kind of scab replacement labour he used to ride out the brutal two-year lockout imposed on workers at the Journal de Montréal in 2009. The PQ had pledged to stop this kind of labour abuse, but no longer. Also gone are last year’s PQ promises to protect the environment, enlarge the public daycare system, raise mining royalty rates and to restore public faith in our democratic process. Not a coincidence.

As ludicrous as it may appear, in university Péladeau changed the first letter in his second name to honour his then-idol, Karl Marx. Now, of course, socialism – and, one could argue, the social good – is Pierre Karl’s avowed enemy. If for no other reason, Pierre Karl Péladeau’s poisonous influence on public life in Quebec should make electors hesitate before voting for the Parti Québécois on April 7.

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