POLITICS
04/07/2014 10:04 EDT | Updated 06/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Pierre Karl Peladeau, PQ Star Candidate, Wins St-Jerome Riding

SAINT-JEROME, Que. - Media baron Pierre Karl Peladeau shrugged off suggestions he's to blame for the Parti Quebecois's crushing defeat Monday as he claimed a high-profile win for the beleaguered party.

Nor would he hint at his possible future in the party's ranks in the wake of Leader Pauline Marois' bitter loss.

The controversial businessman appeared humbled as he celebrated his own victory in a St-Jerome restaurant packed with cheering supporters.

"Tonight we have mixed emotions," he told the crowd. "The result across Quebec isn't what we were hoping for and what we worked so hard for these past few weeks."

"We must accept Quebecers' choice with humility," he said, noting there will be time for analysis once the dust has settled.

The fight for the swing riding pitted Peladeau against Coalition candidate Patrice Charbonneau, Liberal candidate Armand Dubois and Vincent Lemay-Thivierge, who ran for Quebec solidaire.

The seat was left vacant after Jacques Duchesneau, well known for his anti-corruption work, decided not to run again for Francois Legault's Coalition party.

The majority owner of the Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) empire was considered a front-runner — with some people suspecting he has his sights on the party leadership.

But he dismissed any questions about his ambitions Monday, saying it's "much too early" to consider his next steps. For now, Peladeau said, his focus is the national assembly.

He repeated his vow to serve out his term now that the PQ has been demoted to Opposition status, a fate that was sealed less than an hour after the polls closed Monday.

Peladeau, a household name throughout Quebec, burst onto the political scene as the PQ's star candidate despite his hostile relationship with the labour movement, the party's traditional support base.

But as the campaign went on, some political observers suggested the candidate meant to lend credibility to the party on the economic front had instead become a liability.

The multimillionaire announced his candidacy with a fist-pumping declaration that he planned to make Quebec a country, an idea most Quebecers oppose.

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.

Peladeau himself downplayed the sovereignty issue in the following weeks, stressing he would use his business expertise to boost the province's economy.

But he made no apologies for his convictions Monday, saying he joined a sovereigntist party in order to promote independence.

A popular and polarizing figure, the man commonly known by his initials PKP at times eclipsed Marois, stirring speculation that he was angling for her job.

But Marois didn't hesitate to put him in his place, sometimes literally: she once gently pushed him away as he tried to approach the microphone at a news conference.

Ethics questions also dogged Peladeau, who insisted Quebecor outlets would be remain independent in their coverage.

The 52-year-old stepped down as vice-chairman of the conglomerate in order to run for office, but has steadfastly refused to sell his shares. It's unclear whether he will have to do so as a member of the Opposition.

The company was founded by Peladeau's father and has a number of holdings in Quebec, including the tabloid newspaper Journal de Montreal, the French-language TVA television network, and Videotron.

It also owns the Sun tabloids and the Sun News Network in English Canada, a right-wing television station known for its anti-separatist stance.

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