Quebec wants cash-strapped Quebec newspaper group to form a co-op
QUEBEC -- The Quebec government has come out in favour of a way to help save a regional media group from going under -- by turning it into a co-op.
In August, Groupe Capitale Medias, which owns six newspapers in the regions of Quebec, filed for bankruptcy protection.
The Legault government is supporting an employee-driven co-op to try and save it.
Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said on Tuesday that of the two bids proposed to save Capitale Medias, the co-op model is best.
"A co-op could make some sense because the employees are part of the solution, but they have to work together to find ways to reduce costs," he said.
The Quebec government has loaned the company $15 million in the last two years.
"Our option at the time was to stop it and let the media close. We felt that was not appropriate," said Fitzgibbon, who now says Quebec could invest more money if other investors pitch in as part of the co-op.
The government will present its offer on Wednesday to a Superior Court judge. The offer, Fitzgibbon warned, is subject to financing conditions. He would not confirm any financial partners.
There are other concerns, too, including the financial future of retirees since the offer could cut employees' current pension plans by 30 per cent.
"The people who will retire from those newspapers – Le Soleil and all the others – feel that they're going to lose a lot of money for the next years," said Parti Quebecois leader Pascale Berube.
Quebec Solidaire agreed, but said the move is a step in the right direction.
"I'm really happy about that," said QS MNA Catherine Dorion. "It's a good occasion for Quebec to show there are other ways to keep the media alive."
The Liberals argue that to make a difference, the government needs to go further than a co-op and tax the major tech giants.
"The time we wait, we will lose other players and we must not lose local and regional news in Quebec," said Liberal MNA Isabelle Melançon.
Legault wouldn't comment on the government's offer, but said he hopes the newspapers will keep being published.