The co-owner of a microbrewery in Saguenay has been inundated with hate mail following a publication by Conservative leader Éric Duhaime on Tuesday implying the CAQ government favored him by giving him a $1 million loan.
Mr Duhaime recalled on his Twitter feed that the Hopera company received this funding after refusing to accept it 18 months ago. “Saguenay restaurateur who organized a boycott by the Quebec Conservative Party last year, Vladimir Antonov, has just received $920,000 from Pierre Fitzgibbon. I’m going to buy a 6/49! ‘ the Conservative leader wrote.
Saguenay restaurateur Vladimir Antonov, who orchestrated a boycott by the Quebec Conservative Party last year, has just received $920,000 from Pierre Fitzgibbon.
I’m going to buy a 6/49! pic.twitter.com/L1fm8qFmva
— Eric Duhaime (@E_Duhaime) January 17, 2023
However, in an interview, Mr Duhaime refrained from making a direct link between the government’s decision and Mr Antonov’s refusal to receive him with his activists in July 2021, a situation he had already publicly denounced at the time.
“The idea is to say that coincidence makes things funny,” he told Le Devoir on Tuesday. […] Politically, of course, we had trouble with them, they wanted to cancel my meetings in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Mr. Antonov is the one who got the ball rolling first. »
Mr Duhaime says the way the government subsidizes businesses is generally unfair.
“I don’t want to personalize the debate, but every time the government chooses winners and losers, there is an appearance of patronage,” he explained.
Mr Antonov said on Tuesday that the publication had brought him a flood of messages from Mr Duhaime’s supporters on social media.
“We have a kind of pendulum swing for rejecting Mr. Duhaime,” he lamented. There are people who post hate messages on the Hopera page to call us sold lazy. »
Threatening messages are also routed through the personal mailbox of Mr. Antonov, who is of Russian origin and has lived in Quebec for 17 years.
“If you get messages saying we’ll find you dirty Russians, we’ll send you home dirty Communists, it’s flat,” he says.
Originally, the announcement of the loan was to be made only by representatives of Investissement Québec, a Crown company. But Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, who was traveling in the region, was in attendance last Thursday.
“It wasn’t planned,” the microbrewer said.
Mr Antonov exchanged views with Mr Duhaime on Tuesday to explain to him that the minister played no role in awarding this subsidy, which is to be used to build a factory to boost the microbrewery’s output.
“I didn’t call Mr Fitzgibbon and say hello, I turned down Eric Duhaime,” he said, acknowledging he has no political chemistry with the Conservative leader.
The entrepreneur says that with his partners they have met the requirements of the Essor program, where the funding comes from.
“We just put our business plan together like anyone would, and it’s been two years since we did it. The minister has nothing to do with it,” he said.
The $920,000 loan will be used for the $3.2 million project.
Despite the flood of news, Mr. Antonov does not fear for his safety.
“Most people are big talkers, little doers,” he said.
To see in the video