“The PQ downplayed the whole idea of a referendum, so it was harder for Mr Couillard to get traction when he attacked them for planning to hold one. Now, Mr Peladeau has given the federalists-versus-sovereigntists battle a higher profile,” Clark wrote.
A new survey from the polling firm Leger Marketing suggests support for the Liberals has jumped in the Quebec City area since Peladeau’s candidacy brought the prospect of Quebec independence into focus.
That may be part of the reason why Marois and Peladeau steered away from the issue while campaigning on Thursday last week, and instead focused on plans to revive the province’s slumping economy.
Many political observers, including pollster Eric Grenier, have expected the party’s campaign to center on its proposed secular charter, which includes a ban on public employees wearing religious headgear.
“I think the charter put the PQ back in a position where they could win,” said Grenier, operator of the polling aggregator site ThreeHundredEight.com, adding that the charter is popular with French-speaking Quebecois. “I’m sure they will talk about it more as the campaign continues.”
Peladeau also faces scrutiny from within his own party.
Richard Martineau, writing in the Peladeau-owned Journal de Montreal, said left-leaning members of the traditionally left-of-center party, could be upset about bringing in the powerful anti-union businessman.
Peladeau has also been challenged to sell shares in Quebecor if elected to office to avoid any conflict of interest. The company’s holdings include the province’s largest daily tabloid and a popular French-language TV station.
However, many longtime supporters of sovereignty appear prepared to look past those issues.
A dozen prominent members of the movement, including two former Quebec premiers, came to Peladeau’s defense in an open letter published in Montreal newspapers, saying he should not be required to sell his shares.
In Maioni’s view, there appears to be a sense among many secessionists of Peladeau’s generation that “if there’s going to be a sovereign Quebec, this may be the moment.”