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Parti Quebecois leadership candidate Pierre-Karl Peladeau listens as delegates debate a proposal at the party's national congress Saturday, February 7, 2015 in Laval, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan RemiorzRyan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

When an audience member yelled at Sabrina Halde to perform in French – "En français! En français!" – the lead singer of Quebec pop group Groenland was momentarily nonplussed. She quickly mastered the situation, gently joking, "You've come to the wrong place. Remove this man," and doing so in perfect French. The heckler? Parti Québécois leadership front-runner Pierre Karl Péladeau.

This is what the PQ's growing obsession with language and identity has come to. In his off hours, the man who would be Quebec's premier is a musical vigilante, keeping tabs on the linguistic purity of indie-pop bands.

A spokesman for the media magnate later said that he didn't know the group and chalked the outburst up to fatigue, while insisting alcohol was not a factor. When you need to make that sort of denial, you've lost the argument. All in all it was a rough trip up north for PKP; rival candidate Pierre Céré provided headline fodder by deriding the front-runner as a modern-day Citizen Kane, and suggesting he is trying to buy himself a political party.

Others within the sovereignty movement are equally caustic. PQ agitator Pierre Dubuc's new book paints a harsh portrait of a borderline incompetent businessman with a long history of putting personal interests above all else. And there are those who say he's Quebec's Michael Ignatieff, at least as framed by those memorable Conservative ads: just visiting and just in it for himself.

There are other parallels: He's an outsider, and arrives wearing the halo of a political saviour. He also exceeds the Harvard professor's penchant for firing the puck into his own net.

Mr. Péladeau has resources and (sometimes) a populist touch; his poignant reminiscences about his mother's suicide provided a moment of surprising candour. But as one of the richest and most powerful men in Quebec, with a history of brittle labour relations, he's a divisive figure in the left-leaning sovereignty movement.

Among Mr. Dubuc's many barbs, he dismisses Mr. Péladeau as the candidate "the Globe and Mail wants to win."

Well. We're not customarily in the business of endorsing PQ leadership hopefuls. That said, the nomination of a gaffe-prone figure who could further splinter Quebec's sovereigntisty movement is probably something a federalist newspaper could get behind.

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