Barbara Kay: Peladeau as PQ leader? Don’t hold your breath
National Post - Thursday April 10th, 2014
Nobody expected Pauline Marois to keep her job as PQ leader after the monumental defeat she presided over on April 7, but it seemed a bit rich for three leadership contenders to be auditioning for the role before Ms Marois even got to the microphone to make her concession speech.
One after the other, Mssrs Péladeau, Lisée and Drainville took their turn at the podium, ostensibly to praise Mme Marois, but actually to bury her before her political corpse even cooled, the better to focus stalwarts of the PQ flock on their own precious selves as potential shepherds.
It was both sad and funny. Sad – to outsiders – because who’d want the leadership of such a discredited and ethically bankrupt party? Funny because these three stooges don’t seem to understand that jabbing a finger at random at any name in the Quebec City telephone book would probably net the PQ a better choice than any of them. They don’t seem to get the fact that it wasn’t just Pauline Marois that lost the PQ the election. It was, each in his own way, them!
Jean-François Lisée has been advising PQ leaders for decades and none of his advice has turned up trumps for the party. The opposite. It’s time he admitted that he’s a flop as a sovereignty rainmaker. Bernard Drainville is obsessed with identity and instilling paranoia about threats to the French language, and waxed semi-hysterical describing his anxiety for its future of, but is so lacking in charisma he couldn’t muster more than a lacklustre cheer from the PQ diehards in the room when he yelled, “We want a country!” (I think that may have been his Howard Dean moment.)
And as for Pierre Karl Péladeau – get real! PKP is not, not going to be the next leader of the PQ. For a few reasons.
First, it was his unscripted fist pump that triggered the debacle, opening the door to referendum talk that scuttled the planned strategy to avoid all that scary stuff. Why would the party reward a loose cannon with no guarantees this politically inexperienced egotist has learned anything from his faux pas?
Second, PKP is the kind of arrogant capitalist even right-wingers despise. Lefties loathe him for his union-bashing history, and lefties are the PQ base. They had to hold their noses during the campaign, but now the election is over, they won’t want to touch PKP with a ten-foot pole.
Most important, the PQ don’t like leaders who are parachuted in from the outside. These people are ideologues. Loyalty to the cause is the ticket with them. Pauline got her job as leader because she had paid her dues for decades, not because she was brilliant or loved or charismatic.
A case in point is Lucien Bouchard. Now there was a guy with charisma. And they needed him desperately. As leader of the referendum campaign in 1994, Jacques Parizeau was not doing well at all. Bouchard’s entry galvanized the sovereigntist forces and brought them to within a whisker of victory; with Parizeau at the helm, it would have been a decisive defeat.
So they rewarded Bouchard with the leadership of the PQ when Parizeau had to resign for his defeat-night “money and the ethnic vote” comment. But even then, many insiders were not happy about it (including Parizeau, who threw out hints like “why not a woman?” meaning Marois). They weren’t happy that Bouchard had been a federalist in Brian Mulroney’s cabinet. He had worked for the enemy. They didn’t consider him a true believer.
So in spite of all his yeoman efforts on the PQ’s behalf, Bouchard never felt the love he had earned. His was a lonely life in the Quebec City bunker where he toiled in the sovereigntist vineyards, but never tasted the sweet fruits of genuine comradeship with his colleagues.
Things came to a head with the 2000 case of longtime PQ supporter Yves Michaud, whose edgy public remarks about Jews prompted condemnation from both Jean Charest and Lucien Bouchard. That was a kind of tipping point. PQ insiders sided with Michaud, and Bouchard realized he wasn’t prepared to sacrifice more of his life to such cultural parochialists. He retired from politics, the smartest thing he ever did.
PKP is no Bouchard, but he is an outsider. He will not be the next leader of the PQ.