Didn’t know that the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec really, really loves its home province? Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a rash of recent press releases that explain just how much it invests in its own backyard.
That the Caisse loves Quebec might seem like a given, considering that it’s a Montreal-based, Quebec-funded pension fund. But over the past six or so months, the financial institution has felt the need to unleash a steady stream of press releases that remind the public of its to devotion to its home province.
These types of announcements aren’t exactly new. The Caisse has long had a mandate to invest in Quebec businesses, helping them grow into global leaders. But you can’t help but notice that there have been a recent flurry of new announcements. And the timing is a bit suspect. Last fall, Caisse head Michael Sabia was raked over the coals in the Quebec press for putting some non-French speakers in executive positions.
The outrage prompted the Caisse to release a very awkward press release. In it, Mr. Sabia said the following: “Using French as the language of work at the Caisse is much more than an obligation to me. It's a fundamental personal commitment in which I deeply believe.” He also noted that “The Caisse has many responsibilities. One of the greatest responsibilities, in addition to generating returns for its depositors and contributing to the economic development of Québec, is to establish, year after year, the next generation of world-class French-speaking executives.”
Since then, the Caisse has been busy making investments in Quebec, and making sure that these investments are publicly announced. Examples include: increasing its allocation for publicly listed small-cap Québec companies from $50-million to $200-million; lending $62.5-million to Garda World Security Corp.; teaming up with Desjardins to grant $13-million to 11 Quebec companies; and investing $17-million in Novatech Group.
Again, the Caisse has long made these kinds of investments. But considering last year’s language flap, the timing of these Quebec-friendly deals seems more than coincidental.