Pierre Karl Péladeau’s foray into enemy newspaper territory started out in good humour, but it didn’t last long.
Mr. Péladeau, the star Parti Québécois candidate and controlling shareholder of Quebecor Inc., which includes the Journal de Montréal, ventured into the offices of Le Devoir for an interview, and sat across the table with former employee Marco Fortier. Mr. Fortier was a prominent political columnist at Le Journal when Mr. Péladeau locked out its workers. Mr. Fortier never went back. (Read the French-language interview)
Mr. Péladeau’s first order of business was to get Mr. Fortier to fetch him a cup of coffee. “Have there been budget cuts at Le Devoir? I’d take a coffee if you have any,” he said when presented with a glass of water.
The interview covered a wide range: Mr. Péladeau is a vegetarian who believes people will no longer eat meat in 50 years. He described his network of TV stations and tabloid newspapers as a jewel of Quebec cultural heritage.
Mr. Péladeau maintained he is not in a conflict of interest holding 40 per cent of Quebec media while potentially sitting at the cabinet table. He insists he has not been gagged, even if he is much less forceful in selling sovereignty – his fist-raised cry that he wants to build a country is largely blamed for derailing the PQ campaign.
“I didn’t get any orders (from the PQ), I’m not hiding, I’m not under camouflage,” he said.
The interview ended on the shared history of Mr. Fortier and Mr. Péladeau. The media magnate insisted he’s never given marching orders to reporters. Mr. Fortier replied that he doesn’t need to give orders because his underlings know very well how to toe the Quebecor line. His indignation mounted, Mr. Fortier wrote. “If you want a co-operative, there was a co-operative,” Mr. Péladeau said.
It was a pointed reference to Rue Frontenac, the site founded by locked-out journalists, including Mr. Fortier, that ran from 2009 to 2011. Mr. Péladeau insisted the lockout was necessary to guarantee the Journal’s long-term profitability.
“We spoke for a long time,” Mr. Fortier writes to end his article. “Voices were raised. Mr. Péladeau’s press attaché insisted it was time to go. The candidate remained at the table, bemused, with his cup of coffee.”
— Les Perreaux, Montreal-based reporter