After Parti Québécois leader Pierre Karl Péladeau abruptly resigned from politics "for the good of [his] children," many commentators were quick to say the dramatic departure was yet more proof that politics and family life are incompatible.
I disagree. Mr. Péladeau was in a special situation. It is one thing to be an absentee father or mother heavily involved in politics; the kids will adapt to the situation if the family is intact and the parents united. It is another thing to be an absentee father caught in the middle of a difficult and very public separation, with two young children already experiencing the breakup of the family.
Another widespread, rather cynical, interpretation is that things did not go well for Mr. Péladeau in politics and that he used the family issue as a pretext to get away from the mess and go back to his former life as Quebecor Inc. supremo.
True, recent opinion polls were disappointing for the PQ, but the man is known as a fighter, and there is little doubt that he would have continued to lead the party rather than go through the humiliation of deserting at mid-game, two years before the next election.
As late as last week, he looked quite comfortable in his job as PQ leader. He had just changed his chief of staff – a decision you do not make if you intend to quit. Since his awkward beginnings as a neophyte politician, he had learned the ropes of his new career.
So what happened that led to his sudden resignation on Monday?
What happened is that on the day before, Tout le monde en parle, the weekly Radio-Canada television show that attracts more than a million viewers, broadcast a spectacular interview with his estranged wife, high-profile TV producer and media darling Julie Snyder. In her lengthy interview, Ms. Snyder (who once was the star of Radio-Canada's popular talk show L'enfer c'est nous autres) delivered a moving, passionate declaration of love for PKP. "The day he asked me to marry him was the most beautiful day of my life," she said. They married last August in a high-profile ceremony, after a stormy separation in December, 2014, that was followed by couples' counselling and a reconciliation. In January, less than six months after their wedding, they announced their second separation.
On Tout le monde en parle, Ms. Snyder said their 2014 therapy should have been longer and that, now that they are in a mediation process, she hoped they would set "a good example" for their children. She hinted that the mediation was painful. She vividly described how hard she had worked on his leadership campaign and how "violent" politics is, a strange reaction given that she initially agreed wholeheartedly with his decision to run for office.
In any case, there were certainly a few cryptic messages in her declarations. Was she playing the card of the loving, abandoned wife to put on pressure in the middle of a rocky mediation process? Insiders say the couple had a heated quarrel on the weekend and that Mr. Péladeau was afraid of losing access to the children.
Nobody knows for sure what goes on inside a couple's relationship. But what is sure is that Mr. Péladeau felt compelled to leave politics for deeply personal reasons.