Fitzgibbon sharply criticized the CEO of Desjardins Group

Fitzgibbon harshly criticized the CEO of Desjardins Group

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The Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, had very harsh words for the CEO of the Mouvement Desjardins, Guy Cormier, during the debate surrounding the takeover of Groupe Capitales Médias (GCM), at the end of 2019.

“Cormier has gone down in my esteem. No balls in front of PKP [Pierre Karl Péladeau, CEO of Quebecor]. Not the right partner, in my opinion, to take risk in the regions,” Mr. Fitzgibbon wrote in an email sent to his chief of staff, Alexandre Ramacieri, in November 2019. 

This email was filed as evidence in the 2020 defamation lawsuit brought by Sylvie Lalande against Pierre Fitzgibbon. Ms. Lalande is Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of Quebecor and former Chair of the Board of Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins (CRCD).

Earlier in November 2019, Capital Desjardins, manager of CRCD, refused to invest in the cooperative of GCM employees, which wanted to buy the publisher of six daily newspapers, including Le Soleil of Quebec.

In August 2019, Quebecor had also submitted an offer to acquire GCM, a proposal that had been rejected by the Legault government.

Quebec held a debt of several million dollars related to a loan made to GCM a few years earlier, which gave it weight in the decision-making process leading to the choice of a buyer for the company.

Guy Cormier , Number 1 of Desjardins Group

Pressures

In the same email from November 2019, Mr. Fitzgibbon indicated that he had “put pressure” on the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, which was also approached to invest in the future media cooperative. Desjardins's refusal to go ahead had chilled the Fonds FTQ as well as another potential investor in GCM, Fondaction CSN.

During an examination for discovery conducted in July 2021 as part of the dispute between Ms. Lalande and Mr. Fitzgibbon, the latter explained why he had put pressure on CRCD, the Fonds FTQ and Fondaction – which all benefit from tax credits – so that they invest in the revival of GCM.

“I found it essential that Quebec participants, especially tax-advantaged funds, which are supported by the government, find a way to work with GCM. So the pressure was to say 'fine, find a solution,'” said Pierre Fitzgibbon.

In the end, Quebec invested $2.5 million in the cooperative of six newspapers, while the Fonds FTQ , Fondaction, CRCD and the Caisse d'économie solidaire each injected $2 million. The Chantier de l'économie sociale Trust lent $1.5 million to the group and the Quebec Social Investment Network, $300,000.

Claim of $240,000

Sylvie Lalande is claiming damages of $240,000 from Mr. Fitzgibbon, accusing him of having damaged her reputation by insinuating that she could have interceded with of Desjardins on behalf of Quebecor in this matter. 

On Twitter, the minister had declared: “I am sorry that the impact of my legitimate questions on the appearance of conflict of interest of Ms. Lalande could have offended him. » 

The latter wishes that he go further and that he present an official apology to her.

For his part, Pierre Fitzgibbon retorts in his defense filed in court that Ms. Lalande is trying to “muzzle” him.

– With Nicolas Brasseur, QMI Agency

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