Time to yank off this com­pany’s in­vis­i­bil­ity cloak

The Southern Gazette - - Saltwire Wheels - Bob Wake­ham Bob Wake­ham has spent more than 40 years as a jour­nal­ist in New­found­land and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwake­ham@nl.rogers.com

Now, I don’t know whether the “friend of a friend” ex­pres­sion is ap­pro­pri­ate in the mys­tery that has sur­rounded what the me­dia has de­scribed as the uniden­ti­fied num­bered com­pany that bought up a huge par­cel of land in St. John’s and then leased the prop­erty al­most im­me­di­ately to a com­pany, Canopy Growth, that stands to make a small for­tune in the grow­ing of weed in its pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity there.

And I don’t know, ei­ther, whether Ches Cros­bie is on a Steve Neary-like fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion as he con­tin­ues to cast his in­quis­i­tive line over the min­is­te­rial benches in an at­tempt to hook a po­lit­i­cally ad­van­ta­geous cannabis catch, or whether the Tory leader, in fact, has ac­tual in­for­ma­tion about links be­tween the Lib­er­als and the own­ers of the land in ques­tion. (For the sake of the younger set, I should note that Neary was a very ef­fec­tive op­po­si­tion mem­ber in the ’70s and ’80s, hav­ing been a very medi­ocre cab­i­net min­is­ter for a while in the Small­wood ad­min­is­tra­tion, but could fall prey to the boy­who-cried-wolf syn­drome, rais­ing ques­tions that were oc­ca­sion­ally based on a ru­mour he had heard, say, in the el­e­va­tor on his way to a sit­ting of the leg­is­la­ture).

But what I do know — and I think I have plenty of com­pany — is that those of us who sup­ply the gov­ern­ment with money have ev­ery unas­sail­able right to know who owns that land, and whether there are any con­nec­tions be­tween the pro­pri­etor and the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment, whether a friend of a friend in Lib­eral cir­cles may have been al­lowed to take ad­van­tage of such a re­la­tion­ship.

If not, fine and dandy; get on with the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing weed for those who wish to get a buzz now and then, or, for that mat­ter, for those who wish to stay per­pet­u­ally wrecked. (The lat­ter has more and more ap­peal if you hap­pen to be in the habit of watch­ing CNN cov­er­age of that Trump train wreck to the south of us).

But this idea that it’s im­pos­si­ble for the gov­ern­ment to tell us who owns this lu­cra­tive patch of land be­cause it doesn’t have ac­cess to that sort of in­for­ma­tion is laugh­able and ex­em­pli­fies the type of “don’t worry, trust us” ra­tio­nale that has got­ten New­found­land into such a pile of eco­nomic ma­nure time and time again, and has got­ten politi­cians in the province in reg­u­lar doo­doo as well.

And we, and they, never ever seem to learn; we, for be­ing so his­tor­i­cally gullible and al­low­ing our­selves to put our faith un­equiv­o­cally in the gover­nors of this pine clad land, those in a so­called po­si­tion of trust, and they for be­ing so po­lit­i­cally stupid.

Even as the gov­ern­ment was us­ing its ma­jor­ity to de­feat a res­o­lu­tion the other day that arose out of the ques­tions the Tories have been ask­ing about the Canopy Growth land, we were lis­ten­ing day in and day out to ev­i­dence at the Muskrat Falls In­quiry that is cer­tainly giv­ing tons of cre­dence to the no­tion that ab­so­lutely noth­ing good comes from a gov­ern­ment or a Crown cor­po­ra­tion feel­ing it has some sort of in­alien­able right to do the busi­ness of the peo­ple in near com­plete pri­vacy and iso­la­tion.

For sure, the cannabis land is ob­vi­ously not in the cat­e­gory of the $12-bil­lion boon­dog­gle up north, but it’s the same prin­ci­ple: just don’t leave us in the dark, so to speak.

And it’s not as if this is some­thing new. Right from the get-go, right from Small­wood’s dic­ta­to­rial days, way too many New­found­lan­ders have al­lowed them­selves to sit back and adopt an at­ti­tude that once they’ve voted a gov­ern­ment into power, those elected politi­cos are to be trusted to al­ways do the right thing, and that it is some­how in­ap­pro­pri­ate to dare to de­mand ac­cess to all the in­for­ma­tion re­quired to ad­ju­di­cate what the power bro­kers are do­ing with “our” money.

It’s a pro­found form of un­healthy sub­servience.

At least there were howls of protest when the Dun­derdale gov­ern­ment at­tempted to place the province’s free­dom of in­for­ma­tion reg­u­la­tions in a cat­e­gory you’d as­so­ciate with dic­ta­tor­ships, a move (among oth­ers) that cost the premier her job.

And per­haps I’m a naive ide­al­ist, but I’ve never swal­lowed this idea that gov­ern­ments are re­quired to do so much of their busi­ness in se­crecy be­cause the fi­nan­cial mar­kets would be swayed or that com­pa­nies con­duct­ing af­fairs with the province would be re­luc­tant to do so if there was sig­nif­i­cant in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to the pub­lic.

It’s just such a con­ve­nient ar­gu­ment to make when gov­ern­ments (of all stripes) wish to keep their ac­tions un­der wraps.

Again, I don’t know whether there’s some­thing un­eth­i­cal or ne­far­i­ous oc­cur­ring in this cannabis land trans­ac­tion, but we, the un­washed, should have all the in­for­ma­tion we need to make that as­sess­ment.

That such in­for­ma­tion is some­how un­avail­able is not nearly good enough.

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