POLITICS

Pierre Karl Peladeau Elected Leader Of Parti Quebecois

05/15/2015 09:31 EDT | Updated 05/16/2015 03:59 EDT

QUEBEC _ Media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau was elected leader of the Parti Quebecois on Friday, paving the way for the party to renew its push for sovereignty.

Peladeau, 53, won 57.6 per cent of the votes, compared with 29.2 per cent for Alexandre Cloutier and 13.2 per cent for Martine Ouellet.

The winner required at least 50 per cent.

Peladeau has repeatedly stated since entering politics last year that his objective is to achieve Quebec independence.

And he repeated that in his victory speech Friday night.

"You have given me a strong and clear mandate - to make Quebec a country,'' he said to rapturous applause in Quebec City.

Earlier, before the vote results were announced, Peladeau said much the same to the crowd.

"I have met, seen, heard and listened to men and women who believe, more than ever, that Quebec must become a country,'' he said.

"And that is great because I think the same thing.''

His goal of independence will have to wait several years, however, because the next election is set only for the fall of 2018.

Much of the leadership campaign focused on Peladeau's refusal to sell his shares in Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B), the conglomerate in which he remains the controlling shareholder. He promised to put the shares in a blind trust, a position critics say was inadequate.

The ongoing debate prompted Liberal house leader Jean-Marc Fournier to quip that if PQ members "want to transform the Parti Quebecois into the Parti Quebecor, it's up to them.''

Although a political neophyte - he was elected in April 2014 - Peladeau's influence in Quebec is undeniable.

Quebecor owns some of the biggest media properties in the province such as newspapers, a TV network, book publishers and music distributors. His company is also a major player in cable, Internet and cellphone services.

Peladeau's critics and political opponents say he is divisive, anti-union and too short-tempered to handle the frustrations and nuances of political life.

But his passionate, public and fervent cries for Quebec sovereignty, coupled with his high profile, made him a seemingly irresistible candidate for party brass who long desperately to be pioneers of an independent country.

Former cabinet minister Bernard Drainville said as much when he dropped out of the race in April.

"In the last few weeks, it has become very clear to us that Pierre Karl is going to win, on the first ballot, hands down,'' said Drainville, the man who introduced the ill-fated secularism charter when the PQ was recently in power.

Another man considered as leadership potential, Jean-Francois Lisee, quit the race early on because he knew he couldn't beat Peladeau.

"The race is politically over,'' Lisee said in January. The PQ wants to have its "Pierre Karl Peladeau moment,'' he added.

The three candidates had different approaches to holding another sovereignty referendum.

- Peladeau wants to wait until the 2018 election before deciding whether to hold one.

- Cloutier wanted to collect one million signatures calling for a referendum before going ahead with one.

- And Ouellet wanted one in the first mandate of a PQ government.

Stephane Bedard had been leading the party on an interim basis since Pauline Marois's resignation following the election defeat in 2014.

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Pierre Karl Peladeau Elected Leader Of Parti Quebecois