Québecor exec resigns from Desjardins board after comments by Legault, Fitzgibbon


A Québecor executive announced on Wednesday she is resigning as chair of a board of the Desjardins financial group and launching legal proceedings against Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon over efforts to rescue the Groupe Capitales Médias (GCM) newspaper chain.

Sylvie Lalande was targeted by comments made last week by Fitzgibbon when the minister criticized a decision by Desjardins to withdraw from a financing plan to keep the papers in business.

Asked by reporters about the independence of the board of the Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins (CRDC), which could have signed off on the funding, Fitzgibbon asked journalists to consider who sat on the board, which included Lalande, who is also head of the board of Québecor’s Groupe TVA, as well as Québecor executive Chantal Bélanger.

On Thursday, Bélanger announced that she, too, is resigning from the Desjardins board.

Québecor is a competitor of the GCM newspapers and Québecor head Pierre Karl Péladeau has repeatedly denounced the government’s decision to invest in a rescue plan for the regional publications.

Fitzgibbon said Lalande was “competent” but refused to comment on her independence.

Lalande said she made the decision to leave the CRCD after Quebec Premier François Legault made what she considered “barely veiled threats” to withdraw certain financial advantages enjoyed by Desjardins after its decision to withdraw from the GCM project.

“It’s very difficult to bite the hand that feeds you,” Lalande said, adding the financial institution did not force her to choose between staying on or launching her legal action against the minister.

Lalande’s lawsuit, which she is paying for herself, is being filed to restore her reputation and seek reparation for what she believes she suffered as a result of Fitzgibbon’s comments. Fitzgibbon has refused to retract his comment despite receiving a lawyer’s letter last week on behalf of Lalande calling upon him to do so.