Nfld. & Labrador

PCs allege Liberal 'crooked scheme' in failed numbered company land deal

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie is calling for the premier to investigate one of his ministers.

Steve Crocker denies all wrongdoing by himself, his office and the premier

Ches Crosbie, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, says 'everything about this stinks.' (CBC)

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie is calling for the premier to investigate one of his ministers, over comments Steve Crocker made in the legislature related to the potential sale of Crown land to a numbered company.

"If I were premier, I would have great concern about a minister being in my cabinet who is either misleading the House or utterly incompetent," Crosbie said in a news release.

Crocker has denied all wrongdoing.

During question period last month, the Opposition Tories asked Crocker about his department's dealings with a numbered company that was interested in buying Crown land near the Team Gushue Highway a year ago.

It is one of the largest pieces of Crown land in the city.

In a heated exchange on Nov. 14, Crocker told the legislature "there was no direction to sell this land," and said it never went beyond a 10-minute conversation between engineers.

Watch the video below to see the exchange in the House of Assembly

But the Tories released emails obtained through access to information that they say contradict those comments.

A Transportation and Works official wrote in an internal email November 2017 that "I have been ordered to have it sold to 80521 N.L. Ltd. by Wednesday."

That same numbered company ended up buying land in the White Hills area of St. John's, where Canopy Growth is building a government-supported cannabis production facility.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Crocker said neither he nor the premier ordered the sale of the land. He said it's possible a manager in the department told the official to prepare the land for sale and start the process.

Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker speaks to media on Thursday at Confederation Building in St. John's. (CBC)

"I did nothing wrong here. I don't think anybody in my department did anything wrong."

Crocker did acknowledge, however, that the urgency of the transaction didn't make sense to him.

Evidence of a scheme, PC leader says

Crosbie believes the email is a smoking gun.

"We now have documentary evidence that there is a crooked scheme on the go to fatten the backs of Liberal insiders," he said during a media scrum on Thursday.

The email does not identify the person who gave any order.

The sale of Crown land didn't happen — Crosbie said it was stopped by public officials that raised concerns about the lack of a public tendering process.

Emails show a government employee says they were ordered to sell swath of land near Mews Place to the same numbered company involved in the Canopy Growth deal. (CBC Graphics)

The emails do not show a definitive reason why the deal did not go ahead, but did show there were issues with drainage. Crocker said the deal was stopped because of engineering issues.

The Canopy Growth transaction, meanwhile, has sparked controversy in the House of Assembly.

"No one seeing these documents should have any doubt about the need to call in the auditor general to investigate the Ball government's dealings with Canopy Growth and the numbered company," Crosbie said in the release.

"Everything about this stinks."

Crocker is expected to speak with reporters on Thursday afternoon.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Rob Antle and Anthony Germain

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