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Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore.
Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore. - -File photo

Liberal MHA Chris Mitchelmore says such a review would be beyond Auditor General Julia Mullaley's scope

In a last effort to determine who the shareholders of 80521 NL Inc. are, the Progressive Conservatives want Auditor General Julia Mullaley to examine Canopy Growth’s contract with the province.

Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie made the call on the floor of the House of Assembly on Thursday, amid the Tories’ concerns the $40-million tax remittance as part of the deal has allowed the unknown shareholders of the numbered company to reap benefits.

Tory critic Keith Hutchings, speaking on Crosbie’s behalf, says there’s too many questions about the company and the contract to let the matter go uninvestigated.

“The original agreement said within 90 days, Canopy Growth would buy land and build a facility on it – that’s all changed. That in and of itself is problematic. Then you look at the fact that there’s an apparent $8-million worth of shares that have been transferred, there’s a $10-million interest-free loan,” said Hutchings.

“We don’t know that there’s anything untoward here – and maybe there’s not. But with all the questions that have been asked … why not bring the AG in?”

The Tories have previously brought forth concerns that the shareholders of 80521 NL Inc., which owns the land Canopy Growth is leasing, have ties to high-ranking Liberals – though no evidence has come forth to date confirming or denying those suspicions.

Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore says he has no trouble with the auditor general looking at the contract, but he made no commitment to a specific request for the contract to be reviewed.

“In this case, what’s being asked by the official opposition is something with private business-to-business matters that would be outside the scope of what the auditor general could conduct,” said Mitchelmore.

The auditor general has jurisdiction to audit any government department or contract as she sees fit.

Mullaley did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday evening.

There’s also word that the original contract with Canopy Growth has been altered by both parties since it was originally signed.

The original contract asked that progress on the cannabis production facility be 50 per cent completed by October of this year. Mitchelmore says the contract has been changed to allow the facility to be 50 per cent completed by March.

Mitchelmore says the contract can be changed whenever difficulties arise.

“If there are obstacles that have been faced, we have the ability to look at making an amendment to the contract as long as it is agreeable to the provincial government,” he said.

The Opposition also called for Mitchelmore to table the changes to the contract. While during question period Mitchelmore did not commit to tabling the revised contract, he committed to doing so to reporters after Thursday’s sitting.

David.Maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL

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