Many Quebecers were shocked today when Pierre Karl Péladeau announced that he was stepping down as leader of the Parti Québécois and as an MNA for the riding of St-Jérôme, effective immediately. Monsieur Péladeau cited family reasons, and nobody can blame him for that — and I won’t be expanding on that angle here.
PKP, as we have come to refer to him, had only been the leader for a year, succeeding Quebec’s first female premier, Pauline Marois, after she and the party were defeated in the last election. PKP was not one of the old guard independentists; he wasn’t in the party when it was nurtured by René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau, Madame Marois and so many others, most of whom have returned to private life or passed away.
But I suspect PKP was seen by many in the party as new blood, if not young blood (he’s 54). And most important of all, he believes in the party’s raison d’être: the independence of Quebec.
Now today, many are wondering who will replace PKP. When I suggested to one veteran political writer that Jean-François Lisée — who is 58 and was elected as a PQ MNA in 2012 — might be the best person for the job, the response was: “He’s too old.”
The writer then lightheartedly pointed out that even our premier, Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard, is “old” (58) compared to federal Liberal leader and prime minister Justin Trudeau (44).
Yes, it seems Justin Trudeau, and his age, have become the new benchmark in Canada for leadership candidates. Out with the old, in with the younger, even if they don’t have much experience or the wisdom that comes with being older.
Still, Justin has plenty of older people to advise him, and he certainly appeals to the younger demographic, which is why his party won a sweeping majority in the federal election last fall. Young people love Justin Trudeau, and you can bet the Conservative party will be thinking of the youth vote when they hold a leadership convention this year.
But it won’t be so easy for the PQ when it comes to picking a new leader. The problem for them is the majority of young people in Quebec do not want independence. They want Quebec to remain part of Canada. Quebec independence is the dream of an older generation.
So, what to do: choose an older leader who will appeal to the aforementioned older generation. Or go for youth, in the hopes that a young leader will appeal to young people and might even win some over to the sovereignty cause — which, sadly, might be a lost cause.
Indeed, the Parti Québécois may be facing its most critical decision yet: should it give up on the idea of Quebec independence and just be another political party seeking to govern within the Canadian framework? Or should the party be dissolved given that the dream of Quebec independence is over?
Once again, I weep for the Parti Québécois and for its lost dream.