The provincial government will not be making shareholder information for private companies public any time soon.
Tory MHA Tracey Perry brought forth a private member’s resolution on Wednesday evening calling for government to “bring forward legislation to require every privately held numbered company operating in the province that does business with the provincial government to disclose the identities of the significant shareholders in that company.”
The debate stems from allegations previously brought forward by the Progressive Conservatives regarding 80521 NL Inc. The company purchased land near East White Hills Road in St. John’s from Baine Johnston Properties for $2.6 million on June 26, 2018, as well as the building housing the Corner Brook Tweed location for $385,000 on July 26, 2018. The St. John’s land is the future home of Canopy Growth’s production facility on the Northeast Avalon.
From the St John’s location, the company is due to take in roughly $5 million annually in rent payments from Canopy Growth over the next five years.
The Tories say they have information suggesting shareholders of the numbered company have ties to high ranking Liberals. To date, no information about the shareholders of the numbered company has been made public.
Ultimately, the Liberals voted down the private member’s resolution, with the Tories, NDP and independent MHA Paul Lane supporting making shareholders of private companies public knowledge.
Service Newfoundland and Labrador Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh says government simply does not have that information on hand.
“According to the Act, we don’t have access to that information and that data. Simply … we don’t have access is because it isn’t available,” she said.
Gambin-Walsh says prior to 1986, under then-premier Brian Peckford, all the information surrounding shareholders in private companies doing business in this province was publicly available. She says she intends to check with department officials to determine exactly why the information was then made private, with promise of an answer in the coming days.
MHA Perry says the private member’s resolution was all about openness and transparency by government.
“If there was nothing for taxpayers to be concerned about, then why withhold the information,” Perry posited.
“With private business to private business, there’s nothing wrong with respecting their privacy. If there is in any way, shape, or form any use of public dollars, then the public has the right to know.”
It’s worth noting that the numbered company itself is not directly receiving public money as part of its deal with Canopy Growth.