After months of questions and controversy over the province’s legal cannabis deals, the auditor general is planning to take a broad look at the players and policy involved in the industry.
“I think it’s just really an important public policy issue,” Julia Mullaley said about her decision to investigate.
Her office will review systems, regulations, contracts and compliance mechanisms associated with the legalization of cannabis.
Exact investigation parameters — and a time frame — haven’t been set yet, but the $40 million dollar supply contract awarded to Ontario-based Canopy Growth will be looked into.
“The fact that there were some concerns around a particular contract — those are things we can look at once we actually undertake the work — but I think it’s the broader aspects of the public policy side that would be important for us,” Mullaley said Wednesday.
The Progressive Conservatives raised suspicion around the Canopy contract during the last few sittings of the House of Assembly and requested the auditor general investigate. The party repeatedly used its time in question period to ask the Liberal government why it was investing in an industry that had the potential to make handsome profits without a break on remittances.
The Tories also concentrated on the owners of a numbered company leasing a production facility site to Canopy at significant cost, making the accusation that friends of Premier Dwight Ball’s Liberals were benefiting.
Ball and his caucus, now in a minority government, said the $40 million dollar contract was crucial to ensuring a marijuana supply in time for legalization and that the party doesn’t know who’s behind the numbered company because that information isn’t publicly available as per legislation.
Auditor general’s authority
Mullaley said she’ll investigate the selection process for all cannabis companies with government dealings.
But, she said, her report won’t reveal the owners of the numbered company as the landlords work with Canopy directly — not the province.
“From our legislation point of view, we have, certainly, access to all government records in any of the departments and any of the crown agencies, and as companies do business with government, we certainly have an ability to look at the various contracts and any money flowing to companies,” said Mullaley.
“We do not have access into private companies, only their particular dealings with government.”