Pierre Karl Péladeau, or PKP, is the name on everyone’s lips since the announcement last week that he would be running in the riding of St-Jerôme for the Parti Québécois. Debates have blossomed throughout the Quebec political spectrum.
For some it was the coup de grâce that would help seal the unity of the right-wing and the left-wing of the sovereignist movement. Supposedly the momentum that PKP would bring to the PQ would be enough to ensure a majority. Others noted that this was the milestone that would forever infamously indicate the death of the left within the PQ. Unfortunately the arrival of Pierre Karl Péladeau within the ranks of the PQ is the explicit manifestation of an ideological rapprochement between the Stephen Harper neoconservatives and Pauline Marois’ strain of “xenophobic” nationalism.
It’s obvious that the framework and rhetoric that has been brought forward by the PQ through the Charter of Quebec Values is on many levels very similar to the wedge politics that the Conservatives have imposed in Ottawa. The rhetoric used by the PQ and the federal Conservative Party or the Wildrose Party in Alberta is dangerously similar. Another transversal characteristic of these three political movements: their strategy of divide and conquer, through which they have effectively targeted sections of the electorate with key issues thus polarizing the debate in their respective political spheres.
Put in the boarder context of the political strategy of polarization, PKP’s arrival on the Quebec political scene is far from trivial; to the contrary it appears to be the normal course of action. Evidently the right-wing media, Sun News or the outlets of Quebecor, are natural allies of the PQ’s quest to flood the public space with senseless rhetoric void of any substantial content.
The similarities between the various movements gives us insight into the dynamic that fuels the PQ’s capsizing to the right. The fact that “Free Speech” becomes a justification for almost any statement no matter how derogatory, hateful or out of line it might be, is a simple recipe to capture and control attention. Commanding attention is a must in every political contest and in this specific case, the Quebec elections of 2014, it allows the PQ to sideline any meaningful debate.
Since the very start of this debate about the Charter, many Canadians from the ROC (Rest Of Canada) have found comfort in the fact that such a debate is only possible in Quebec, which implicitly implies somehow that the ROC is some what less xenophobic, less prone to racist behaviours. Sorry to break the news to my compatriots in the ROC but this is a myth.
PKP’s dashing entry into Quebec’s political arena was a timely reminder. After all, the tentacles of his media empire extend far beyond the borders of Quebec. When Marois talks of the threat of Muslim fundamentalism she’s perfectly in tune with the “high priests” of the neoconservative right embodied by none other than Ezra Levant, who happens to be (certainly a pure coincidence) on PKP’s payroll as a pundit for Sun News (technically PKP stepped down from Sun’s parent company Quebecor to run, but he still holds shares).
Has the coming of Pierre Karl Péladeau been beneficial for the PQ? Everything indicates that it hasn’t. The latest polls indicate it has actually compromised the PQ’s blueprint for Quebec in more ways than one.
If anyone has made the connection between the arrival of PKP within the PQ and the potential for the Conservatives to garner support in Quebec in the next federal election, it’s certainly the main strategists of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Conservatives now know for a fact that by using a rhetoric that appeals to xenophobia and islamophobia , something the Conservatives excel at, they can make substantial gains in the rural regions of Quebec in the next election.
No matter what the outcome on the 7th of April, new fractures have appeared in Quebec society, the void left by the Bloc Quebecois and the resurgence of an ethno-centric strain of nationalism fuelled by the Charter has created the space for the Conservatives to make substantial gains. Pauline Marois has made a massive bet and with every substantial bet comes an exponential amount of risk.
The PQ might get a majority, although that’s also up in the air, but madame Marois might have also leaked to the Conservatives the blueprint to win over the “heart” of Quebec.