Montreal

Jacques Daoust denies knowledge of Rona stocks liquidation by Investment Quebec

In a report on the state-funded agency released Thursday, Auditor General Guylaine Leclerc said the transaction was approved by Quebec’s minister for the economy, who is responsible for Investment Quebec.

New auditor general report contradicts Daoust, citing minutes from Investment Quebec board meeting

Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust responds to reporters questions before entering a party caucus meeting, Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

A report by Quebec's auditor general is contradicting previous assertions by cabinet minister Jacques Daoust about what he knew regarding the liquidation of Rona stocks by Investment Quebec.

In her report on the state-funded agency released Thursday, Auditor General Guylaine Leclerc said the transaction was approved by Quebec's minister for the economy, who is responsible for Investment Quebec, and was ultimately authorized by its board of directors in December 2014.

Though the report doesn't name Daoust, he was Quebec's minister of the economy at the time. He became transport minister after a cabinet shuffle in January 2016.

"The responsibility for managing the file was incumbent on [the minister of the economy], notably when it comes to the decision to sell the stocks," the report reads in French.

The report cites the minutes of an Investment Quebec board of directors' meeting that said the board received permission to the sell the stocks from the minister in December 2014.

Daoust responded to the allegations by maintaining he knew nothing of the transaction.

Sale of shares criticized after Rona sale to Lowe's

The sale came under scrutiny after Rona was sold to the American company Lowe's last February.

Critics said the government would have been in a position to stop the sale if it still owned the stocks.

At the time, Daoust said he knew nothing of the sale, citing Investment Quebec's independence.

Daoust maintained that position in an interview with Radio-Canada on Thursday.

"I was never informed of the transaction and my permission was never requested. In any case, it was not required. I never gave approval for this transaction," he said.

He is questioning the accuracy of the Investment Quebec minutes cited in Leclerc's report.

He also said the stocks were purchased during his tenure as the head of Investment Quebec from 2006 to 2013 in order to "protect" Rona from a hostile takeover.

Calls for resignation

The opposition Coalition Avenir Québec responded to Leclerc's findings Thursday by calling for Daoust's resignation.

"Is he telling the truth to MNAs, to Quebecers, and to journalists, or is the auditor general lying," asked CAQ MNA François Bonnardel.

Daoust is already facing criticism for his handling of both the Uber file and a corruption inquiry currently underway at the Transport Ministry.

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