QUEBEC - Ex-Quebec Liberal cabinet minister Jacques Daoust wrote in a political document before his death last year he was opposed to the sale of Rona shares to U.S. interests in 2014.
The document, obtained by Quebecor Media, indicates Daoust was furious his own government wanted him to say publicly he agreed with the sale of 11 million shares by Quebec's investment agency, when he did not.
Daoust wrote that the decision to authorize the sale was made by a senior staff member behind his back when he was economy minister.
He said he was caught in a behind-the-scenes game between his chief of staff, Pierre Ouellet, and another person with more authority than a minister — pointing a finger at Premier Philippe Couillard's then-chief of staff.
Daoust was elected to the national assembly in 2014 and named economy minister before he took the transport portfolio in January 2016.
He kept the position until he stepped down as a member of the legislature in August 2016 after he landed in hot water for his alleged role in Investissement Quebec's sale of the 11 million Rona shares to Lowe's, a U.S. renovation company
Daoust, who was head of the province's investment agency between 2006 and 2013, always insisted he did not know about the sale until it was a done deal.
In March 2016, Rona shareholders overwhelmingly approved the sale of the hardware chain to Lowe's as part of a $3.2-billion friendly bid announced two months earlier.
Sebastien Daoust, one of Daoust's sons, told Montreal radio station 98.5 FM on Wednesday that some of the passages in the document were in keeping with what his father told him.
The younger Daoust added that while he talked about politics daily with his father, the former minister did not like to discuss the sale of Rona.
Couillard, meanwhile, denied he or his staff played any role in the sale of Rona shares to Lowe's.
"It's been clearly established, because all that was checked at the time, that neither I nor anybody in my staff was aware of this deal," the premier said in the legislature.
Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee latched on to the brouhaha to describe Couillard as "anti-nationalist" in economic matters.
"(For Couillard), the Quebec economy is up for sale," Lisee said. "And there are fewer head offices in Quebec than when he came to power (2014).
"Mr. Daoust thought it was important that Rona stay in Quebec and that's really the crux of the matter."
Daoust died last August at the age of 69.
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