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Quebec Opposition Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau reacts to the election of a federal Liberal majority government at the Quebec National Assembly on October 20, 2015. Peladeau has denied a report Quebecor Inc. was actively involved in tax havens abroad when he was president of the conglomerate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

History tells us the sovereigntist Parti Québécois loves a good saviour. Amid the smoking ruins of the 2014 provincial election, Pierre Karl Péladeau's raised fist and business cred looked like just the tonic for a moribund party.

Talk about best-laid plans, and all that.

On Tuesday, Mr. Péladeau cancelled his scheduled events after authoring his latest calamity. Everything started with a strange controversy surrounding plans for a pro-independence think-tank funded by private donors, including Mr. Péladeau.

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Quebec's Official Opposition Leader is a walking conflict-of-interest – among other things, he has adamantly refused to put his controlling share of media giant Quebecor in a blind trust – something his opponents delight in pointing out.

But when the opposition Coalition Avenir Québec responded to the think-tank project by saying that it could violate the electoral law passed by PQ icon René Lévesque, Mr. Péladeau offered an unusual response: He sent lawyer's letters. Then Mr. Péladeau threatened more for anyone who repeated the calumny; the next day, the government House Leader happily did exactly that, thundering "he doesn't understand democracy."

In the middle of it came a high-profile staff departure, and reports (which the PQ Leader denied) that Mr. Péladeau was about to fire his recently appointed chief of staff. Days later he was on the back foot again, with the publication of media investigations into Quebecor and its use of subsidiaries in tax havens. The PQ has pledged to crack down on tax-avoidance loopholes and Mr. Péladeau has long denied employing them, and still does.

Late Monday, the crescendo. Mr. Péladeau and wife Julie Snyder announced they have decided to call it quits less than six months after a highly public, fairy-tale wedding. The breakup of Quebec's foremost power couple – Ms. Snyder, a television producer and host, is arguably the more famous of the two – is big news in Quebec. But it is merely one more cloud in the darkening skies over Mr. Péladeau's viability as a premier-in-waiting.

Mr. Péladeau's leap into politics was intended to be a game-changer for the PQ. That it has been, time and again. But with the other parties openly courting a growing list of disaffected Péquistes, the game is not exactly changing according to plan.

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