Peladeau will put his Quebecor shares in trust if he becomes PQ leader

QUEBEC – Pierre Karl Peladeau is rejecting calls that he sell his controlling stake in Quebecor Inc. as he ponders a bid for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois.

Peladeau did say Wednesday he would be willing to put his shares in the media conglomerate in what he called a blind trust if he decides to run and is chosen leader next May.

Selling them is out of the question, he said.

In a statement he read only in French, Peladeau used the French term for “blind trust” when he said where he would put his shares if he becomes PQ leader.

Such a trust is defined as one where the owner does not know how the assets are managed.

The member of the legislature for Saint-Jerome also distanced himself from a statement published by Quebecor during the last provincial election campaign. The media company said Peladeau would put his shares in a blind trust if elected to the national assembly in the April 7 election.

“You know very well that was a news release put out by Quebecor, not a statement issued by me,” Peladeau told The Canadian Press. “It was a Quebecor news release. I didn’t write it, it was the company.”

Peladeau has been coming under pressure from political opponents as well as possible future leadership rivals to choose between his media empire and his political goals.

He is the controlling shareholder of Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B), whose extensive media holdings in the province include the TVA television network, Le Journal de Montreal and the Videotron cable company.

The media baron said he has not yet decided whether to run for the leadership, although he is considered the likely front-runner to succeed Pauline Marois. So far, nobody has entered the race that will culminate in the new leader becoming head of the official Opposition.

Members of the legislature debated a motion later Wednesday aimed primarily at preventing Peladeau from keeping control of Quebecor. A vote will be held on Thursday.

The motion was presented by the Coalition for Quebec’s Future, which is third in the legislature in terms of seats.

Coalition Leader Francois Legault was not satisfied with the idea of a trust.

“What we want to do is separate the media side from political power,” he said. “If he puts his shares in a trust but tells the trustee to keep the Quebecor shares, I don’t see how that fixes the problem.”

Peladeau took aim at the “extreme partisanship” of Legault’s party.

“Under the law, which I scrupulously respect, I do not have to choose between my decision to represent the constituents of my riding in the national assembly and keeping the heritage that my father, Pierre Peladeau, bequeathed to me,” he said in his statement.

“Just as many other Quebecers did, I held him in great esteem and had huge respect for him. He was the perfect example of how Quebecers can be successful in business and assert themselves in the economic sphere.

“For me, he was a source of phenomenal inspiration that I hope to pass along to my children so that, if they so desire, they can continue to pursue the economic emancipation of Quebecers.”

Peladeau also promised he would not meddle in the editorial decision-making process at any Quebecor-owned property.

“At the right moment, I will make a declaration based on honour where I will make a solemn promise to never interfere in the editorial content of (Quebecor) media in any way whatsoever.”

He also promised to continue his fight to make Quebec a country — a statement he made during the election campaign that was widely regarded as damaging to the PQ’s re-election hopes.

Later on Wednesday, Liberal house leader Jean-Marc Fournier said a legislature committee will look at the issue of the independence of the media.

He said legislation could then be tabled.