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Caisse chief denies role in Quebec's policy debate

Michael Sabia, president and chief executive officer of Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDP) poses in their offices in Montreal on July 26, 2010.

Christinne Muschi/christinne muschi The Globe and Mail

The head of pension fund giant Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Michael Sabia, has taken the unusual step of denying any role in the policy debate over the province's economic development after a newspaper reported he was partial to the ideas of a new political party.

The Caisse said in a news release Monday that Mr. Sabia "categorically denies any desire to get involved in political debate."

Mr. Sabia's only interest is ensuring that the Caisse openly examine all worthwhile ideas related to Quebec's economic development, as that is part of the institution's mandate, says the news release.

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The Caisse deems as worthy of being publicly discussed all ideas on how to better promote entrepreneurship and economic development in the province, said Mr. Sabia.

But to suggest that there is any political aspect to such ideas is "quite simply inappropriate," says the release.

Mr. Sabia is quoted in the Monday edition of the Journal de Montréal, as well as on its affiliated business website, as saying he finds "very attractive" the words of François Legault and Charles Sirois, of the new political party Coalition pour l'avenir du Québec.

The Coalition wants to postpone the independence debate for a generation and concentrate on building up Quebec's slumping economic power.

"Mr. Sabia admits he finds certain proposals of the [coalition]seductive," the article states.

Mr. Legault – a former Parti Québecois cabinet minister and a co-founder of Air Transat – and Mr. Sirois – a telecom entrepreneur and the chairman of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce – have stated that Quebeckers need to become "owners" of the economic levers in the province and that the Caisse needs a stronger mandate to invest in local companies and business people.

Recent public opinion polls have put the coalition ahead of the governing Liberals and Opposition PQ.

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