Montreal

Jacques Daoust's chief of staff gave OK to Rona sale

A series of emails have surfaced that cast doubt on what Jacques Daoust, the recently resigned cabinet minister, claims he knew about the sale of Rona to an American corporation.

Emails reveal that Investissement Québec sought approval from Daoust's office about Rona-Lowe's deal

Emails released to Radio-Canada have prompted questions about what the government knew about Rona's take-over. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

A series of emails have surfaced that cast doubt on what Jacques Daoust, the recently resigned cabinet minister,  claims he knew about the sale of Rona to an American corporation. 

Daoust, the former minister of transport, repeatedly denied that he was consulted before the hardware chain's purchase by North Carolina-based Lowe's while he was serving as minister of the economy.

​The transaction was criticized by the province's opposition parties, who wanted the government to protect Quebec businesses from foreign takeovers. 

But a series of emails obtained by Radio-Canada show that Daoust's then chief of staff, Pierre Ouellet, was asked to seek Daoust's permission for the sale to go ahead. 

A vice-president with Investissement Québec, the provincial development agency that falls under the authority of the economy minister, emailed Ouellet on Nov. 26, 2014.

"Can you confirm by email reply that the MEIE [Minister of Innovation and Exports] agrees with the sale," the email from Jean-Jacques Carrier reads.

Ouellet replies that he will get back to him "ASAP." Two hours later, Ouellet sends another email. This one simply reads "OK."

Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust faced scrutiny earlier this summer of his handling of scandals within the Transport Department. (CBC)

When asked about the emails, Couillard acknowledged they raised "serious questions" to which he wants "serious answers, and quickly."

Daoust announced Friday evening that he was stepping down as minister and leaving politics. 

'I was never informed of the transaction'

Daoust's story about being out of the loop on the Rona sale was already undermined by an auditor general's report released in June.

That report revealed Daoust attended an Investissement Québec meeting where the potential sale of Rona was discussed. 

According to the auditor general, the minutes of an Investissement Québec board of directors' meeting said the board received permission to the sell the stocks from the minister in December 2014.

But despite those revelations, Daoust still maintained ​that he knew nothing about the transaction. He questioned the accuracy of the minutes of the meeting.

"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," Daoust said in June.

The credibility of his denial now rests on whether you believe his chief of staff, often a minister's most trusted advisor, gave Investissement Québec approval for the Rona sale without first consulting his boss.

Parti Québécois MNA Alain Therrien wants Daoust to step down. (Radio-Canada)

Serious questions

The Parti Québécois is not willing to take that step, and reiterated calls that Daoust step down. 

"Do you still believe your minister after those emails?" PQ MNA Alain Therrien, said in comments directed at Couillard.

"How can a minister with such erratic behaviour keep his job?"

Daoust has also faced scrutiny for his management of a series of internal scandals in the Transport Ministry. 

Ouellet, who followed Daoust when he was shuffled from the economy file, lost his job over allegations he delayed taking action when informed about irregularities in the department.

with files from Radio-Canada

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