A brief history of Lowe's experience in Canada

Lowe’s announced the closure of 34 stores in Canada Wednesday. Here is a brief overview of the U.S. company’s history in Canada.

North Carolina-based Lowe’s bought into a long retail tradition when it purchased Quebec-based Rona for $3.2 billion in 2016.

Formed in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War, Rona emerged as an alliance of hardware stores that dubbed itself in French as “The Hardware Merchants.”

Becoming Rona in 1960 — the title derives from the first-name letters of founders Rolland Dansereau and Napoleon Piotte — the company found itself under siege by a hostile bid from Lowe’s in 2012 that set off a political storm in Quebec.

The $1.8-billion offer foundered, but the American giant came back with a bigger one four years later, gobbling up its Canadian counterpart.

The purchase touched off a political controversy that cost a Quebec cabinet minister his job. Jacques Daoust resigned in 2016 over his alleged role in authorizing the Rona sale while serving as economy minister.

Daoust maintained he didn’t know about Investissement Quebec’s decision to sell its shares in Rona — the institutional investor’s nine per cent stake was key to fending off the Lowe’s bid in 2012 — but emails sent in 2014 and obtained by TVA suggested the vice-president of the provincial investment agency had been given the go-ahead from Daoust’s former chief of staff.

Three years on, Lowe’s has announced the shutdown of a total 65 locations in Canada, sparking further backlash in a province sensitive to foreign takeovers.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet on Wednesday denounced the closures and called on the federal government to disclose details of a 2016 agreement with Lowe’s outlining commitments around jobs and a Canadian headquarters.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said his economy minister would call Ottawa to make sure the company is not breaking any conditions, but noted that “it’s a private enterprise — what we can do is limited.”

Further controversy arose earlier this month after Ad Standards, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body, said that Lowe’s should stop using the phrases “truly Canadian” and “proudly Canadian” on its store signs as they were misleading. The company said it “strongly disagrees” with the conclusion, but agreed to remove the words.

The provincial breakdown of store closure announced Wednesday is as follows:

British Columbia, 3

Alberta, 6

Saskatchewan, 1

Ontario, 9

Quebec, 12

Nova Scotia, 3

The Canadian Press