QUEBEC - Prominent businessman Pierre Karl Peladeau, who is chairman of the board of Hydro-Quebec, has attended two select cabinet meetings featuring Premier Pauline Marois and a few key ministers, The Canadian Press has learned.
Marie Barrette, a spokeswoman for Premier Pauline Marois, said Wednesday that Peladeau is the only chairman of the board of a government agency to be part of such a select committee.
Peladeau is also vice-chairman of the board of the Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) conglomerate and chairman of the board of Quebecor Media and TVA Group.
He resigned as Quebecor CEO earlier this year.
The cabinet committee is also comprised of Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau, Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet and Environment Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet.
The group is looking at the electrification of transport, a sector that Marois announced on Monday would receive $516 million over three years as part of the government's economic action plan.
Barrette refuted the suggestion that Peladeau's participation in the committee's work is a sign the Parti Quebecois is getting ready to welcome him into their political ranks.
''We've disspelled that rumour and we're being categoric here,'' she said. ''He's not coming into politics with us.''
There is increasing speculation that Marois will call a Dec. 9 election in early November
Peladeau said Tuesday he has no immediate plans to jump into politics.
Marois named Peladeau as Hydro-Quebec's chairman of the board last spring. The appointment came shortly after he announced his intention to step down as Quebecor's chief executive.
Barrette said the electrification of the transport sector is a priority for Marois and, in terms of importance, is comparable to the way former premier Jean Charest felt about developing northern Quebec with his Plan Nord.
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A Brief History Of Sun News
Pictured: Sun News host Ezra Levant
Controversy surrounding the Sun News Network began even before the network went on the air in April, 2011. The Globe and Mail reported in the summer of 2010 that <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/lawrence-martin/is-stephen-harper-set-to-move-against-the-crtc/article1677632/">CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein was under pressure from the Prime Minister's Office to resign</a>, in order to pave a smooth path for Sun News to be granted a licence by the regulator. Finckenstein denied the allegations.
'Stop Fox News North'
With concerns swirling about the possibility of a PMO-driven political agenda at Sun News, the activist site Avaaz launched "<a href="http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_fox_news_canada">Stop Fox News North</a>," a campaign to pressure the CRTC to deny a licence to the news network. The network responded by citing Avaaz's U.S. roots and noting that left-wing billionaire George Soros has contributed to the group, in an apparent effort to discredit the petition as a "U.S. import."
Soros Threatens To Sue
Future Sun News personality Ezra Levant went further than most in his criticism of Avaaz and its links to George Soros (pictured above). Levant suggested in a column that Soros, who is Jewish, aided the Germans in the Holocaust as a teenager. After receiving a letter from Soros' lawyers threatening to sue, <a href="http://www.torontosun.com/comment/2010/09/17/15388356.html">the Sun newspapers ran a retraction</a>.
Sun News was on the air for only about six weeks when its first major controversy erupted. The CRTC received a record 6,676 complaints from viewers after host Krista Erickson aggressively challenged dancer Margie Gillis over the issue of whether artists should receive taxpayers' money in the form of grants. The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council eventually ruled <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/03/krista-erickson-margie-hills-sun-news_n_1253421.html">Erickson was within her rights to express her opinions during the interview</a>.
Sun News vs. CBC
Sun News has made the CBC's public funding a signature issue, repeatedly attacking the network for taking $1 billion per year in taxpayers' money while competing against private-sector broadcasters. But the CBC is fighting back. It put out a press release noting that Quebecor, Sun's parent company, enjoyed $500 million in subsidies over five years, and argued that -- unlike the CBC -- it is not publicly accountable to taxpayers.
'Chinga tu madre'
Ezra Levant got himself in trouble again in December, 2011, when he responded to Chiquita Bananas' declaration it wanted to avoid oil from the oil sands. "Chinga tu madre," Levant said to Chiquita -- a phrase that translates as "f--k your mother." The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/13/ezra-levants-chiquita-chinga-tu-madre_n_1594452.html">declared Levant's outburst a violation of ethics standards</a>.
Fake Citizenship Ceremony
Canadian journalism reached an embarrassing nadir in the spring of 2012 when it emerged that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tag/sun-news-fake-citizenship-ceremony">a citizenship reaffirmation ceremony broadcast on Sun News had been partially staged</a>. Six federal bureaucrats had posed as newly-sworn Canadians during the event that had been reportedly requested by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Kenney's office apologized to Sun News. Government officials later alleged Sun News was aware of the bureaucrats posing as new Canadians.
In your home, like it or not?
Sun News <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/13/sun-news-mandatory-carriage-crtc_n_2122391.html">applied for a "mandatory carriage" licence in the fall of 2012</a> that would require cable and satellite operators to carry the network as part of their basic cable package. Though neither CBC News Network nor CTV News Channel currently enjoy mandatory carriage, they did when they first started out, as Sun News has pointed out.
Millions in losses
Sun News reported in January, 2013, that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/21/sun-news-loss-crtc-basic-cable_n_2522396.html?utm_hp_ref=canada">it lost $17 million in 2012</a>, due to weak revenue because the channel is only carried in 40 per cent of Canadian homes. Parent company Quebecor is saying the network will continue to lose money unless its request to the CRTC for mandatory carriage on basic cable is granted. Pictured: Quebecor CEO Pierre-Karl Peladeau
'The Jew vs. the Gypsy'
Sun News personality and well-known right-wing pundit Ezra Levant issued a formal, on-air apology after a September, 2012, segment in which he declared that the Roma were not a race, and were rather "a shiftless group of hobos" who "rob people blind" and whose "chief economy is theft and begging." The Toronto police reportedly even launched a hate-crimes investigation into the segment, at the request of a local Roma group.
Denied Mandatory Carriage
In August 2013, the CRTC, Canada's telecom regulator, rejected Sun News' application for mandatory carriage. The network had asked the CRTC to make them a mandatory part of all basic cable services, arguing it would not survive financially without it. Though the CRTC rejected the Sun News application, it also launched a review of the rules surrounding cable news networks. Among the possible outcomes are a realignment of channels so all news channels are grouped together on the dial, and the possibility of a "must-carry" order for Sun News, which would mean that all TV service providers would have to at least offer the network. Pictured: CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais