Jean-Francois Lisee announced Friday that he was withdrawing from the party leadership race, saying he can't win as the media magnate-turned-politician has an insurmountable lead.
The race that hasn't officially started yet, but Lisee said in his opinion, it's already a done deal.
"I have too much respect for the party members around me to give them false hope," Lisee told a Montreal news conference on Friday after meeting with his campaign team on Thursday evening.
"Technically the race for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois hasn't started yet, politically, this race is over."
The race officially begins Feb. 4, but Lisee had little appetite to lead his team into battle, given the odds.
Lisee said there are suggestions within the party that more than half of PQ members want Peladeau as their leader.
So, Lisee asked, what's the point?
"In our opinion, there doesn't exist any scenario such that, between now and the vote in May, there will be a reversal of the tendency," Lisee said.
"We feel the political reality is that Pierre Karl Peladeau will be leader of the Parti Quebecois."
He'd collected the required signatures and was supposed to announce his candidacy Friday. Instead, he withdrew with regret, accepting that the party wants to live its "Pierre Karl Peladeau moment."
First elected in 2012, Lisee was a senior cabinet minister in Pauline Marois' minority government, responsible for international relations and the Montreal region.
He was re-elected in 2014, when the PQ managed to win only 30 of the province's 125 ridings.
Lisee returned recently from France and participated in a PQ caucus meeting earlier this week near Montreal. While he made no mention of his decision during the meeting, sources said his former supporters were filtering to Peladeau and Alexandre Cloutier's campaigns in recent weeks.
Lisee, who announced he was entering the leadership race in early November, said he will stay on with the party.
While he did not formally throw his support behind Peladeau, Lisee said he was willing to work with him if he was elected leader come May.
He has been an outspoken critic of Peladeau's, comparing the rookie politician recently to Andre Boisclair, a former PQ leader who rose quickly only to suffer a major defeat at the polls. Asked about the comments, Lisee replied simply that he "tells it like it is."
Several other caucus colleagues have announced they're running to replace Marois, who stepped down after last year's defeat at the polls.
Peladeau is the perceived front-runner in a race that is also expected to include Cloutier, Bernard Drainville and Martine Ouellet. The latter three are ex-cabinet ministers under Marois. Another candidate is Pierre Cere, a spokesman for a group that defends the unemployed.
The next provincial election is scheduled to be held in September 2018, giving any new leader plenty of time to rebuild the party's fortunes.
- With files from Lia Levesque in Montreal.
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