November 27, 2014 / 8:53 PM / in 3 years

Canadian media mogul joins race to lead Quebec separatists

Parti Quebecois member of the National Assembly (MNA) and former Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau looks on during a swearing-in ceremony at the National Assembly in Quebec City, April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Canadian media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau announced his candidacy to lead the separatist Parti Quebecois on Thursday, declaring his focus would be on taking the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec out of Canada.

The Parti Quebecois (PQ) has been without a leader since shortly after April’s provincial election, in which the party suffered its worst defeat in 40 years. A recent poll, however, showed the PQ with Peladeau as leader would be ahead of the federalist Liberal Party, which won the April election, in popular support.

Asked by a reporter on Thursday what the theme of his campaign would be, Peladeau said: “Independence...I entered politics for independence.”

Peladeau, known as PKP, is the controlling shareholder and former chief executive of Quebec’s largest media company, Quebecor Inc.

He was elected to the Quebec legislature in April and has been touted in a number of polls as the front-runner to replace former PQ leader and Premier Pauline Marois, who resigned after the party’s rout in April.

A Leger poll showed that under Peladeau the PQ would beat Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard’s Liberals 36 percent to 30 percent. An election is not due for several years.

Peladeau has come under fire for refusing to sell his shares in Quebecor Inc if he becomes party leader, promising instead to put them in a blind trust, where trustees would have full discretion over the assets.

Recruited by Marois to run for a seat in the provincial legislature, Peladeau was held partly responsible for the PQ’s April loss after he made a fist-pumping declaration of support for making Quebec a country, an idea opposed by most Quebeckers.

The PQ has traditionally tried to tread carefully between keeping the dream of independence alive and scaring off voters who either want to stay in Canada or have simply had enough of the debate over secession.

A referendum on independence in 1980 lost by 60 percent to 40 percent, while one in 1995 lost by 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent.

The Parti Quebecois will choose its leader next May.

Additional reporting by Randall Palmer in Ottawa; Editing by Peter Galloway

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