Would you be making this announcement today if there wasn’t any election call tomorrow?
Yes. To be very frank ... because of the shareholders’ meeting or analysts’ meeting Lowe’s had a few months ago, I was kind of prepared and ready for that. And I had hoped in a sense rather it would become public sooner so that if either Lowe’s had gone public with its offer or Rona had gone public with it rejection of the offer than it would be away from the electoral [sic] campaign. I don’t think that’s a partisan issue and my reaction would have been exactly the same.
The Caisse has 16 per cent of Rona as of today. How much would Investissement Quebec be taking? Are we still talking about a minority stake, just enough to block a takeover? A poison pill? What are we talking about here?
Oh, the mandate ... give Investissement Quebec is to look at all the means can muster to see how they can contribute to this offer not eventually being successful.
What kind of money are you willing to put out?
It has to be a reasonable amount. As I said in French, you know, we’re not going to nationalize Rona. In fact, there are major shareholders, maybe some shareholders there who would like to sell, take their profit but wanted the control to be kept in Canadian hands and Investissement Quebec could accumulate a small part.
Are you deeming Rona to be a strategic asset so important to Quebec that it can never fall into foreign hands or is this a play on your part to get a higher offer for the Quebec investors who hold Rona shares?
It’s not a play to get a higher price. I think Rona is a strategic asset for Canada as a whole. When you’re speaking in Canada of close to 30,000 employees, 28,000 employees for Rona in the stores and franchises and also 80,000 Canadians that work for the suppliers of Rona, if you add them up it’s over 100,000 Canadians. ... The key, of course, in that business is the purchasing power and that’s the first thing that’s centralized and at the end of the day rationalization takes over whatever short-term promises [are made] for 10, 15 years.
Have you spoken to Mr. Paradis to get his views about whether he shares the same views that Rona should remain in Canadian hands?
I’ve informed Mr. Paradis of the position I would be taking.