Nfld. & Labrador

Ches Crosbie rips into Canopy deal, promises to pull back the curtain on numbered companies

The PC leader wants to stop "private stakeholders with hidden identities, hiding behind numbered companies, from doing business with the government."

PC leader describes government-supported deal as a coverup

PC Leader Ches Crosbie, at the future home of Canopy Growth in St. John's on Thursday, says he wants to stop numbered companies with hidden identities from doing business with the provincial government. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

PC Leader Ches Crosbie, using the future home of Canopy Growth as his backdrop, says if he becomes premier he'll shine a light on numbered companies that do business with the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

"What we need is a law that prevents private stakeholders with hidden identities, hiding behind numbered companies, from doing business with the government. That's easy to do," Crosbie told reporters Thursday.

But Liberal Leader Dwight Ball fired back, accusing Crosbie of trying to "change the channel" in the wake of his "two big mistakes" about healthcare funding and rate mitigation in the Muskrat Falls era.

Crosbie has been highly critical of the deal between the large cannabis producer and the Liberal government, which will see the province forgo up to $40 million in tax remittances in exchange for Canopy establishing a production facility in the province, and providing a guaranteed supply of cannabis to the local market.

Canopy has said it plans to create up to 400 jobs.

"You're trying to tell me that they need $40 million from the taxpayers to establish a grow op here? I don't buy it and I don't think the people do either," he said.

But it's the land deal between Canopy and a numbered company that has especially riled Crosbie, and prompted him to use words like "coverup" and "secrecy" when describing the deal.

Canopy inked a deal with 80521 Newfoundland and Labrador a year ago to lease land in the White Hills area of St. John's, and a massive facility is now under construction on the site.

Under the terms of the lease, Canopy will pay $25 million over five years to the numbered company to occupy the space.

'A monument to Liberal cronyism'

A CBC investigation has found that the mysterious company shares an address with firms linked to Dean MacDonald, a prominent businessman with Liberal ties.

"This is a monument to Liberal cronyism. For feathering the backs of their own crony pals," said Crosbie, without using MacDonald's name.

MacDonald has declined to say whether he has any connection to 80521, and under the current rules, such information is protected.

Crosbie wants to change that.

The nature of this business deal is so irregular and unusual that you can form your own conclusions about what's going on.- Ches Crosbie

"The law will specify that you have to say who your shareholders are if you're going to do business with the government."

When it was pointed out to him that the numbered company is not doing business directly with government, but with Canopy, Crosbie called that "sleight of hand."

"The fact is that they're using canopy to sluice money through to their pals," he said. "The nature of this business deal is so irregular and unusual that you can form your own conclusions about what's going on."

Ball, meanwhile, denied there is any connection between the Liberals and the numbered company.

"We have no dealings with that. There's no money going into that company," said Ball.

He accused Crosbie of attempting to distract attention from his controversial proposal to change the way funding is allocated for health care, and a Muskrat mitigation plan that would see rates increase to 17 cents.

Anything he's saying is about changing the channel on two serious impacts that he would have on people in this province," said Ball.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Katie Breen


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