Quebec ‘dragon’ steps back from media holdings in order to lead Liberal campaign
Alexandre Taillefer, the man behind Teo Taxi, is hoping to drive the Liberals to victory in October’s provincial election.
On Thursday, the entrepreneur announced via social media that he will act as chairperson of the Liberals’ election campaign.
“It wasn’t an easy decision but a necessary one given the importance of the stakes,” he wrote. “I connect with the progressive positions of (Quebec Premier Philippe) Couillard.”
Taillefer is a managing partner at venture capital firm XPND but is best known as a judge on the television show ‘Dans l’Oeil du Dragon,’ the Quebec version of ‘Dragon’s Den.’
In 2015, he launched Teo Taxi, the first cab company in Montreal to feature an all-electric fleet of vehicles.
Couillard praised Taillefer as an emblem of “the new Quebec.”
“He’s part of the new society we have in Quebec,” he said. “A young man who made his own business, who’s also been socially very forceful in his points of view. It fits very well with our party which mixes economic development with social justice.”
Taillefer’s political loyalties are coming into question, though: he is also a member of the Parti Quebecois and his membership card is valid until 2020, since he renewed it last year.
In addition, he joined the CAQ in 2014-2015. According to the CAQ, the businessman even made financial contributions to the party.
Parti Quebecois ethics critic Agnes Maltais questioned the ethics of Taillefer’s appointment, pointing to his business holdings as a conflict of interest.
“He has two companies, Taxelco and XPND — and he is a lobbyist for these companies,” she said.
“Just like Mr. Peladeau, Mr. Taillefer will have to answer very serious questions about the relations between his corporate activities and his political activities,” added Quebec solidaire’s Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
Taillefer said in a statement on Friday that his political affiliation does not affect the management of Voir and L’actualité, two media properties in which he holds a minority ownership stake.
“I have always left editorial freedom entirely in the hands of the editorial teams of L’actualité and Voir, and my association with the Liberal party of Quebec changes nothing in this regard. It is of primordial importance to ensure editorial teams are independent of their ownership, even more so when that individual is invested in politics.”
The statement added that Taillefer is withdrawing from the board of Mishmash Media, the company that owns l’Actualité and Voir, leaving decision-making power in the hands of president Eric Albert.
Couillard said since Taillefer is taking on a party function and not running as a candidate, there’s no conflict in his taking the job.
“He’s not a candidate. He’s not running for office. He’s just going there as a chairman. If you look at past examples, a lot of people chaired campaigns with various interests and nobody asked them, ever, to divest those interests,” he said.
Taillefer takes over the chairperson role from former premier Daniel Johnson, who held the job before the 2014 election.
Over the past week, Taillefer had denied rumours he would run in the upcoming election but had said he planned to take on an active role ahead of the Oct. 1 vote.
The announcement comes as the Liberals have been hit with a series of resignations. Five cabinet ministers and 14 MNAS have announced they will not seek re-election.
The move drew some harsh words from another of Quebec’s most prominent businesspeople.
Former PQ leader Pierre Karl Peladeau, who drew criticism from opposing parties for his refusal to relinquish control of the Quebecor media empire during his time in politics, took to Twitter to take a shot at Couillard over Taillefer’s media holdings.
Taillefer’s final column in Voir appeared in its May 10 edition, and was written before he took on the job with the Liberal party.
Taillefer also sits on a number of boards of Montreal institutions.
Since his teenage son’s suicide in 2015, he has also been an outspoken advocate for troubled and at-risk kids.
Taillefer’s arrival partially counteracts the announcement of a spate of high-profile Liberal departures, including five cabinet ministers and about 10 backbenchers who will not seek re-election.