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Pierre Karl Péladeau is a polarizing figure in Quebec politics.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

A week before Parti Québécois members will cast the first ballot in the party leadership race, the front-runner, Pierre Karl Péladeau, is facing renewed accusations that his intensity, impatience and short temper make him behave publicly in a tactless, intimidating fashion.

The most contentious claim was made by leadership candidate Pierre Céré, who alleged that Mr. Péladeau is a bullying character who once yelled profanities at him and uttered words suggesting that he wanted to buy him out.

Another leadership candidate, Martine Ouellet, said Tuesday that Mr. Péladeau addressed her sharply after a candidates' debate as he chided her for asking him questions. Ms. Ouellet however told reporters that she didn't feel intimidated.

While officially just a rookie opposition member of the Quebec National Assembly, Mr. Péladeau is also the controlling shareholder of the Quebecor Inc. media empire, a situation that has generated much debate about the influence he would have should he become party leader.

"I don't beat around the bush," Mr. Péladeau told reporters Tuesday when the issue of his temper was raised. He didn't go into specifics but said that, as a business executive, he had worked with hundreds of people in Quebec, Canada and Europe.

'What's your price?'

In interviews he gave this week to radio station 98.5 FM Montréal and to the French service of the Canadian Press news agency, Mr. Céré confirmed an incident reported earlier by Maclean's magazine.

According to Mr. Céré, during a party council in February, he complained about Mr. Péladeau's unique situation as a media-owning politician and called him "Citizen Péladeau," a reference to Citizen Kane, Orson Welles's 1941 movie about a paper magnate with ill-fated political ambitions.

Mr. Céré said he was cornered afterward by an angry Mr. Péladeau, who was swearing and saying, "What's your price?"

Questioned by reporters, Mr. Péladeau neither confirmed nor denied the incident but mocked the Maclean's writer.

"I have nothing to say about articles in Maclean's," Mr. Péladeau told reporters. "I have nothing to say about the pamphleteer named Martin Patriquin," he added, pronouncing the name first in French, then repeating it with an English accent.

Mr. Céré said he felt free to speak out because he is not a member of the PQ caucus.

He said he was uneasy about the way his rival's personal life spilled into the political sphere – Mr. Péladeau's wife, TV producer Julie Snyder, is feuding with the provincial government over tax credits, while his sister, Anne-Marie, is suing him in an inheritance dispute.

Mr. Péladeau is a polarizing figure, but many in the independence movement are biting their tongue because they are hoping that he will be their cause's saviour, Mr. Céré said.

2013 Montreal fundraiser

The Maclean's article also described a 2013 Montreal fundraiser where Mr. Péladeau buttonholed and berated another guest, Pierre Rodrigue, a former Quebecor executive.

The article alleged that Mr. Rodrigue was reaching out to shake his former boss's hand but instead was grabbed by the shirt while Mr. Péladeau said: "You've got a lot of balls coming over here to see me."

2014 visit by German President

The incident mirrored one described in an article in La Presse that alleged Mr. Péladeau lost his temper at an official dinner during the visit of German President Joachim Gauck last September.

The article said Mr. Péladeau was at the head table when he started haranguing a Liberal minister because the province would not provide a subsidy to his wife's production company.

2008 funeral of Michel Vastel

In Tuesday's Le Soleil, columnist Gilbert Lavoie recalled that he first met Mr. Péladeau at the funeral of journalist Michel Vastel, in 2008, and immediately found himself on the receiving end of "vitriolic criticism" of Guy Crevier, the publisher of Le Soleil and La Presse.

Mr. Lavoie said he was surprised to hear those comments during such a solemn moment. "I noted that I was only a wage earner at Le Soleil. I suggested he settle his difference with Crevier rather than take it out on employees."

2014 train delay

Mr. Péladeau's impatience is amplified by his use of social media. Last November, the train transporting him from Montreal to Quebec City had to stop. He mentioned the problem on Twitter, remarking that "with CN and Via Rail under federal jurisdiction, one has to wonder why we're so bad."

The next day, a Quebec City radio station reported that the train delay had been caused by a suicide. Ms. Snyder came to the defence of her husband, tweeting that "he didn't know. Our sympathies to the family."

She said Mr. Péladeau understood the family's pain because his mother, Raymonde Chopin, killed herself when he was 14.

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