Forgive me: last week’s broadcast of “The Wizard of Oz” makes the reference irresistible. Though in Québec the “man behind the curtain” we are meant to ignore is not one but many, his manipulation of a guileless public is becoming clearer now that the curtain has been allowed to slip open a bit.

I mean, of course, the “bombshell” announcement that Pierre-Karl Péladeau, pervasive enough in Quebec to be commonly known as PKP, will be the Parti Québecois’ star candidate, forsaking his inescapable media empire to run in St-Jérôme as a staunch separatist…for the sake of his children.

Amazingly, I have yet to see anyone point out the obvious parallel to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, whose extensive media ownership and resultant campaign advantage put him in the seat of power regardless of a certain lack of interest in democracy and the well-being of hoi polloi.

While some members of other parties vocally objected to the unfair advantage of owning newspapers, a television network, and Quebec’s mega-provider of cable and Internet services, Mr. Péladeau seems to think (or wants us to think) his resignation from the boards of directors absolves him of any conflict of interest.

To be fair to him, he says if he wins he will put his millions of dollars’ worth of shares into a blind trust.

To be fair to the rest of us, although PKP does not make the everyday editorial decisions for his media, the “editorial independence” is rather tenuous, given that the right-wing agenda of Québecor established under PKP’s father continues to prevail (see “Fox News North,” “Ethical Oil” and anything by Ezra Klein). Besides, in an era when media concentration means massive layoffs of journalists and “repurposing” of content across channels, it takes abnormal courage for an editorial board to keep anyone on staff whose articles are likely to inconvenience a majority shareholder in the empire.

In other words, nobody really expects any Québecor-owned outlet to remind the public that power-seeking by a man who already has too much power and influence may not be the best thing for democracy. Though I do look forward to the clash between the Sun Media Quebec-bashing and the newly-found separatist imperative at TVA et al.

Cynic that I am, and no doubt at the risk of a lawsuit, I can’t help mentioning that if PKP envisions an independent Québec, it is one he can run like the Journal de Montreal—by locking out the underlings who do the work and dare to ask for fair treatment. Not unexpectedly, Quebec Solidaire underlined PKP’s anti-union ideology and on those grounds ruled out the idea of collaboration with the PQ.

While I’m on the subject, I can’t help wondering what the great minds in the PQ were thinking. If any of my half-dozen readers aren’t fully bilingual, let me encourage them to improve their French, if only for the pleasure of reading Chantal Hébert’s PKP au PQ : une mauvaise bonne idée ?
As always, she nails both the PQ’s hypocrisy and PKP’s likely disappointment when he discovers (if he wins) that he has to take orders and watch out for long knives instead of giving orders and wielding the axe.

As for Mme Marois, rhetoric aside, her record on social justice issues and solidarity really does speak for itself. Now we can also infer she is hoping for a triumphal exit from politics, leaving an independent Québec’s future firmly in the hands of the very coterie from whose anti-democratic clutches René Lévesque and his colleagues worked so hard to extricate us.

Friends, keep a sharp eye on the men behind that curtain.

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