Cement Plant Sparks Clash Between Affluent Quebec Families

A clash between two of Quebec’s richest families over a project to build a cement plant in the economically hard-hit Gaspé region is heating up.

Bombardier Inc.’s Beaudoin-Bombardier family owns a controlling stake in McInnis Cement, a Quebec firm that is in talks with the provincial government over financial backing for its proposed $1-billion cement plant in Port-Daniel-Gascons, Quebec.

But rival Lafarge SA – which is 21 percent indirectly owned by the Desmarais clan through Geneva-based Pargesa Holding SA – is fighting any government assistance to the project, claiming it would constitute unfair competition and would result in an overflow of cement in an already oversupplied domestic market. Lafarge is an important cement producer in Quebec along with Colacem, Holcim and Ciment Quebec.

McInnis struck back with a recent news release, slamming Lafarge’s recent hiring of a lobbyist to dissuade the current Parti Québéco government and its investment arm, Investissement Québec, from providing any financial aid to McInnis.

McInnis claims the lobbyist, François Crête, is using inaccurate information to make the case against the project. “Lafarge wants to alert the government and the elected representatives to the negative economic impact of such [financial aid],” Crête’s mandate in the registry reads. “Essentially, major financial aid to this project would create inequality in the market resulting in unfair competition among the different players in Quebec.”

Investissement Québec spokeswoman Chantal Corbeil said in an interview that talks with McInnis continue. Asked about Lafarge’s hiring of a lobbyist to try and prevent any government aid, Corbeil remarked “that’s not for us to comment on. It’s a political matter.”

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