The Enigma of Paul Arcand

A new chapter is beginning this week in the history of radio in Quebec. Paul Arcand, the undisputed king of the airwaves for nearly 35 years, will host his final show on Friday. This will undoubtedly be a period of mourning for thousands of listeners. Over the years, his voice has become familiar to us and his presence each morning has been almost comforting. And yet, the man behind the microphone remains relatively unknown to us.

“He is very private about his personal life. He never talks about it. It’s not because he’s unfriendly. On the contrary, he is very warm, very empathetic. He’s just naturally discreet. In the 15 years I worked with him, I never knew who he voted for, for example,” says Serge Amyot, who was his researcher for a long time.

Indeed, it’s difficult to say who Paul Arcand votes for, as he has had his share of clashes with politicians of all political stripes. Apart from his brother Pierre, a former Liberal elected official, whom he has never wanted to interview for obvious reasons. As for his family, not much is known, except that he has been in a relationship for several years and has two sons, both of whom work in the media industry.

Perhaps his loved ones have adopted the monastic lifestyle that comes with being a morning show host? When asked about this, the experienced 64-year-old host, who wakes up at dawn and claims to work seven days a week, nervously laughs. He stumbles over his words, when he never lacks words when improvising every morning at 6 a.m. during his news review. “I’m not sure what to say. I think, for any job, there are constraints. If your father is a policeman, he has atypical hours. If your mother is a doctor too.” He dodges the question, much like the politicians whose empty rhetoric he detests.

“I have never marketed my personal life. My wife and children are not part of a marketing plan,” Paul Arcand emphasizes, who has always shunned social events and the spotlight.

The Everyday Paul

This introverted individual prefers to ask questions rather than answer them. However, since announcing two years ago that he would not renew his contract with 98.5 FM, he has been inundated with requests for interviews. “I don’t really like it. Let’s just say that when it’s over, I will have had my quota for several years,” he says with a laugh.

In private, it is said that Paul Arcand has a great sense of humor. His sometimes cutting humor plays a valuable role in bonding with his team. Despite his firmness during certain interviews, one might think he is austere. But listening to him rant every morning against the “nitwits” and the slow bureaucratic machinery, some might also be led to believe he has a tempestuous character. However, this is not the case.

“When I started hosting on CJMS, the bosses had every reason to fire me. It wasn’t very good! But it eventually worked out.”
— Paul Arcand

“It’s very pleasant to work with him. The Paul in everyday life is much closer to the Paul on the airwaves at 5:30 a.m., who is relaxed and tells jokes with his team. It’s not the Paul at 7:25 a.m., who challenges his guests,” observes Émilie Perreault, who was a cultural columnist on his show from 2012 to 2018.