Reaction was swift in Quebec to the news today that the U.S. home improvement chain, Lowe's, is buying Rona in a friendly takeover valued at $3.2 billion.
Parti Québécois Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau got the ball rolling early Wednesday, with a tweet challenging Quebec's new minister of economy, Dominique Anglade, to take a stand against the purchase.
"A first test for [Dominique Anglade]: Will she intervene or let Quebec lose another company headquarters. Will she resist her own premier?" he tweeted
Anglade was named minister of economy in a cabinet shuffle last week by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
Anglade spoke positively about the deal to reporters later on Wednesday, saying it was "wanted by both parties."
"What's important for us is to ensure that the commitments made are serious and respected," she said.
Anglade said she had spoken with the head of Lowe's Canadian operations, Sylvain Prud'homme, and that she was reassured by the company's promises to keep its headquarters in Boucherville, Que., limit job cuts and maintain Rona's supply chain, which relies heavily on Quebec companies.
Rona employs about 17,000 people across Canada, and its affiliated dealers employ another 5,000.
"What is important for us in terms of economic development, and for Quebec, is to ensure that jobs remain in Quebec, and that we possibly even see an increase in jobs," Anglade said.
Péladeau se souvient
Couillard was also targeted in another tweet by Péladeau that played on the opposition of former Liberal premier Jean Charest and his finance minister, Raymond Bachand, to an earlier attempt by Lowe's to buy Rona in 2012 for $1.76 billion.
"Jean Charest and his minister Raymond Bachand defended Rona, and Philippe Couillard folds again. No plan for Quebec," he said.
Jean Charest et son min Raymond Bachand avaient défendu Rona. P. Couillard s'écrase encore. Pas de plan pour le Qc.https://t.co/ATxFQKe6t2— @PKP_Qc
In 2012, the Charest government opposed the sale on the grounds that it "wasn't in Quebec or Canada's interest," according to Bachand.
At the time, Bachand said such an acquisition was a threat to jobs in Quebec and Canada.
Anglade said Péladeau's comment does not reflect the current context in Quebec.
"We're not in 2012," she said.
Caisse de dépôt OKs deal
The Caisse de dépôt pension system, a large and influential investor in Rona, announced separately that it intended to tender its shares to Lowe's.
"Overall, la Caisse believes the transaction will result in equal or superior economic activity generated by the Rona banners in Quebec," the Montreal-based fund manager said.