Quebecor’s Pierre Karl Péladeau says he’ll challenge ruling after learning guilty plea comes with stiff penalty

MONTREAL—Quebec media titan Pierre Karl Péladeau says he will challenge a court ruling after learning that his guilty plea on provincial election laws violations would bar his company, Quebecor, from bidding on public contracts.

The matter is linked to multimillionaire Péladeau’s decision to personally repay a bank loan to finance his successful 2015 run to become leader of the Parti Québécois.

Péladeau led the sovereigntist party from May 2015 until May 2016 before resigning the party leadership and his seat in the Quebec legislature due to a custody battle with his ex-wife, television personality Julie Snyder. He has since resumed his responsibilities as president and chief executive of Quebecor.

In repaying a $ 137,000 loan entirely with his own money, exceeding the individual $ 500 contribution limit, Péladeau violated Quebec’s elections law. In doing so, he also ran afoul of a more recent provincial law designed to root out corruption in politics—a piece of legislation that he himself voted for.

“I obviously never committed any acts that in any way resemble collusion or corruption. I have never carried out electoral fraud or acts for which the law was designed. On the contrary. I have been transparent and I have paid my debts,” he wrote on Facebook Monday evening.

“But the future of contractual relations worth many millions of dollars, from telecommunications to the production and broadcast of shows … could, over time, become uncertain.”

The decision to appeal the ruling is an admission of a major mistep by lawyers for the mercurial media mogul, whose company owns the tabloid Journal de Montréal as well as the French-language TVA network. Earlier this month, he revealed that he had received a fine from Quebec’s elections watchdog and said he would own up to his error “like any responsible citizen.”

The fine—$ 27,600—was small change for Péladeau, whose net worth along with his brother, Erik, was estimated at $ 1.82 billion, according to a 2018 ranking by Canadian Business magazine.

While he waits to find out whether the appeal will be heard by the courts, Péladeau is also calling on the Liberal government of Premier Philippe Couillard to make an exception that would allow Quebecor to continue bidding on public contracts, arguing that it is inappropriate to apply the penalties of the law to his particular case.

“The treasury board and its president, who are responsible for the (law on public contracting), as well as the Quebec premier have the power to make an exception to the automatic application of the law,” Péladeau wrote.