Former Desjardins chair Lalande suing Quebec minister for 'defamatory remarks'

Quebec Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon responds to questions at a news conference on Tuesday February 4, 2020, at the Quebec legislature in Quebec City. He is being sued by business leader Sylvie Lalande for defamation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Business leader Sylvie Lalande is suing the Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon for "defamatory remarks and innuendos" claiming $240,000 because of his statements related to the Desjardins file and the revival of the Groupe Capitales Médias (GCM) newspapers.

Until Dec. 4, Lalande was Chair of the Board of Directors of Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins. She also sits on the boards of directors of Quebecor and TVA.

At the source of the dispute are declarations by the economy minister last November when Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins announced that it would not grant a loan to revive newspapers from GCM. Desjardins has changed its mind since then.

Fitzgibbon said he was surprised at the decision by Desjardins, wondering aloud "if there were forces present that could have derailed the decision."

When a journalist asked him if Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins was completely independent, he replied: "Well, look at who sits on the board," the prosecution said.

When a journalist asked: "So the president of the council is not independent?" the minister replied: "answer your own question."

This story by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2020.