While Peladeau confirmed what people had long been expecting, he broke the news in unusual fashion — in response to a university student who asked him after a speech whether he was going to take the plunge.
Later, when another student asked him what could motivate a rich man like him to want to become PQ leader, he repeated the dramatic phrase that marked his entry into politics last spring: "To make Quebec a country."
The one difference this time was the absence of any fist pump to accompany the declaration. The gesture and the words were widely considered to have had a negative impact on the PQ just days into the election campaign.
The stunning move forced the PQ to address an issue it normally avoids come election time. After days musing about a post-secession Quebec, the party spent much of the campaign backpedalling as it dropped in the polls.
Later on Thursday, Peladeau made his way to PQ headquarters, where he was again grilled by reporters.
Asked what his main theme will be during the leadership campaign, he replied without hesitation: "Sovereignty."
"Sovereignty, yes," he said. "I think it's clear that I've committed to achieving Quebec sovereignty. It is my objective, my only objective."
While the new PQ leader will be chosen in May 2015, the next election is scheduled to be held in September 2018.
Peladeau said that, if elected leader, he will spend the next few years explaining what he considers the benefits of sovereignty to Quebecers.
When asked whether sovereignty could be negotiated with Ottawa, he replied: "I don't think the legitimacy of a nation, of a people, can be negotiated."
Polls have suggested the controlling shareholder of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) would be the front-runner in the race to succeed Pauline Marois as leader.
The man known in Quebec simply as PKP has been criticized in some quarters for refusing to sell his shares in Quebecor, whose extensive media holdings include the TVA television network, Le Journal de Montreal and the Videotron cable company.
He repeated on Thursday he would be willing to put his shares in a trust if he becomes PQ leader.
Peladeau joins caucus colleagues Jean-Francois Lisee, Bernard Drainville, Alexandre Cloutier and Martine Ouellet in the race. Another candidate is Pierre Cere, a spokesman for a group that defends the unemployed.
He will have to collect at least 2,000 signatures by next Jan. 30 as well as fork over a deposit of $20,000 to the party.
Premier Philippe Couillard said the fact Peladeau seems to have the inside track doesn't necessarily mean that much right now.
"Five or six months in politics is a long time," Couillard said in Dakar, Senegal, where he will attend this weekend's meeting of la Francophonie.
"There are several candidates and there will be debates with (PQ) members. But again, I have no intention of getting involved."
— With files from Alexandre Robillard in Dakar, Senegal
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