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Allegations of Liberal ties to numbered company set to take in millions from Canopy Growth lease agreement

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie speaks to reports Thursday outside the House of Assembly.
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie speaks to reports Thursday outside the House of Assembly. - David Maher

Who owns 80521 N.L. Inc.?

For two weeks a question has gone unanswered in the House of Assembly.

Who are the shareholders of 80521 Newfoundland and Labrador Inc.?

Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie has put the question to the government during every question period since Nov. 1. On the first day the question was asked, Finance Minister Tom Osborne stated he would “endeavor to find out, if that’s what the member wishes.”

Two weeks later, the answer remains elusive.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Osborne says he legally cannot find out the names of the shareholders of the company. He says Crosbie is playing politics.

“I don’t know who owns it. Government did not deal with the person, or the company, or the individuals, or whomever owns the land. Government dealt directly with Canopy,” said Osborne.

“It’s great politics in the House. Mr. Crosbie knows that the answer is: we don’t know.”

The “we don’t know” answer from Osborne is much different than the answers being provided on his behalf by Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore on the floor of the House of Assembly. Mitchelmore used the questions as a chance to pivot into speaking of the economic spinoffs of the deal, without addressing the question.

Crosbie says he has heard the shareholders are connected with the Liberal government.

“The government of the province has stewardship over 40-odd million dollars and probably more which it has dispersed to a private-sector corporation. There is an involvement of this numbered company in a business deal which has many suspicious earmarks,” said Crosbie.

“There’s a lot of public suspicion about the identities of the people behind the numbered company.”

The numbered company, founded on Nov. 9, 2017, lists Goodland Buckingham lawyer Dennis Clarke as the sole director of the company. It is common for businesses to list their lawyer as a director, so whether Clarke is the sole beneficiary of the company remains unknown.

Multiple calls to Clarke’s office made by The Telegram have gone unanswered.

While Health Canada would have the shareholder information as part of Canopy Growth’s licence application, a spokesperson says Health Canada will not disclose the shareholders, as the information is private.

The numbered company owns the land of two cannabis facilities: the Canopy Growth facility near East White Hills Road in St. John’s, as well as 62 Broadway Ave. in Corner Brook, the site of Canopy Growth’s Tweed location in the west coast city.

Both purchases were made a month apart: 80521 N.L. Inc. purchased the Corner Brook buildings for $385,000 on June 26, 2018 and paid $2.6 million for the site of the future Canopy Growth production facility in St. John’s.

The future Canopy Growth facility was purchased from Baine Johnston Properties Ltd, which lists Chris Collingwood Sr., Chris Collingwood Jr. and Gregory Dickie as directors.

The location of the production facility was announced by the provincial government on May 7, 2018.

According to Canopy Growth public filings, previously reported by CBC’s Rob Antle, annual lease payments to 80521 NL Inc. are just under $5 million annually, with the option for Canopy Growth to buy the facility after five years.

The third-quarter financial results of Canopy Growth show the company issued more than 332,000 shares of the company to arrange the lease deal, totaling over $8.7 million

As well, a $10-million interest-free loan was given by Canopy Growth to the numbered company for construction costs.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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