Quebec says its pension fund to help fend off takeovers

Wed Sep 19, 2012 6:19pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - New Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, who fought the U.S. takeover bid for home-improvement chain Rona Inc, said on Wednesday that the role of Quebec's pension fund should be strengthened to keep corporate headquarters in Quebec hands.

The separatist leader made the comments as she named former academic Nicolas Marceau as finance minister in her new government, telling him that part of his mandate was "to restore order to our public finances."

She said Marceau would also propose revisions to the mandate of the province's pension fund, the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, so that it would promote economic development and work to "keep the strategic decision-making centers here."

Even before she took power, the Caisse had taken an increased stake in Rona, which is headquartered in Quebec, during the C$1.8 billion ($1.86 billion) bid by the U.S.-based Lowes Cos Inc, which has since been withdrawn.

Marois reiterated the goal of her party to make Quebec an independent country, though her hands are tied by the fact that her Parti Quebecois does not control a majority of seats in the Quebec legislature.

"We have the conviction that the future of Quebec is that of a sovereign country," said Marois, victor in the September 5 provincial election.

"More than that, it appears to us that to remain a province of Canada constitutes an unacceptable risk for Quebec."

The separatists lost referendums on independence in 1980 and 1995. Her government will be unable to launch a third plebiscite because both major opposition parties have said they would not give it the required backing for such a vote. Her minority government is not expected to last much more than 18 months.

The new provincial finance minister, Marceau, was first elected in 2009 to the Quebec legislature and served as the Parti Quebecois' finance spokesman. La Presse newspaper quoted him this month as saying: "A (fiscal) deficit is not normal. It must be the exception."

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway and M.D. Golan)

 
Quebec's Premier Pauline Marois smiles after being sworn-in at the National Assembly in Quebec City, September 19, 2012. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger