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The Leader of Quebec’s Embattled Separatist Movement Abruptly Resigns

Media magnate and brash sovereigntist Pierre-Karl Péladeau resigned abruptly on Monday, say he's leaving politics for the well-being of his kids.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
May 2, 2016, 8:00pm
Photo via the Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz

Telecommunications tycoon Pierre-Karl Péladeau, leader of Quebec's independence movement, resigned suddenly on Monday afternoon in a tearful press conference.

Péladeau ascended to become the head of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) last May, vowing to bring about a third referendum on Quebec's independence should he be elected as premier.

His resignation, which shocked virtually every political observer in the province, spells trouble for the movement to split Quebec from the rest of Canada.

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The PQ ended a decade of rule by the incumbent Liberal Party in 2012, amid street protests against corruption and tuition increases that drew hundreds of thousands of Quebecers, only to lose power to the Liberals two years later. Defeated premier Pauline Marois resigned after that election, sparking the leadership race that installed Péladeau.

While others in the party were more cautious on the pledge to create an independent Quebec nation, Péladeau was unabashed in his promise to break away from Canada. At a campaign stop where Marois announced him as a star candidate for the party in 2014, an image of him, fist raised into the air — in the middle of a promise to "make Quebec a country" — became iconic.

But he walked away from that dream on Monday, telling reporters at a terse press conference that, given the choice between politics and his family: "I've chosen my family." He also resigned his seat in the National Assembly, effective immediately.

Pierre Karl Péladeau se retire de ses fonctions: — Parti Québécois (@partiquebecois)May 2, 2016

The announcement comes just days after his on-again-off-again partner, Julie Snyder, went on Quebec's most popular talk show for a candid interview that echoed Péladeau's resignation speech.

The pair, arguably Quebec's most high-profile couple, had spent more than a decade together, only to split in 2014, remarry in August, 2015, and split again in January of this year.

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Snyder, often referred to as simply 'Julie' in Quebec, appeared to foreshadow the upcoming announcement from Péladeau, often referred to by his initials: PKP.

"When you're in a couple, you make choices for your family," Snyder told Tout Le Monde En Parle last week. "Me, I've needed to make choices for the kids."

Quebec media reported on Monday that Péladeau's resignation comes amid a looming custody battle with Snyder.

When asked about Péladeau's bid for the leadership of the separatist party, Snyder told the host that the stress of the campaign caused her to take up smoking.

"The day after Pierre Karl was elected, I found myself in my pajamas in a poncho, with my coffee and my cigarette, in a tiny ball on the balcony," she said. "There, I realized why people say that politics is violent."

Péladeau didn't name Snyder in his speech, instead telling reporters that: "I made this decision for the well-being of my children. I have to, for them, remain an example."

The brash scion of media magnate Pierre Péladeau, he proved controversial since his entry into politics in 2014, given that he — as president and CEO of Quebecor Inc — owned a significant chunk of Quebec's French-language media.

While Péladeau stepped down as the head of the media conglomerate, he refused to give up control of his shares in the company, which led opponents to accuse him of a conflict of interest.

Had his stayed on, Péladeau had a legitimate chance at ousting Premier Philippe Couillard, who leads the federalist Liberal Party. While the Parti Quebecois had been trailing the Liberals, recent polls show Péladeau closing the gap.

Just last week, Péladeau had made an overture to other pro-sovereignty parties like the left-wing Quebec Solidaire, suggesting they join forces in order to win and force a third referendum.