Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg, MB - Manitoba Liberals say the vaccine development deal that Brian Pallister is signing with a small Calgary start-up doesn't make any sense.
Pallister is claiming that Providence Therapeutics, which has never brought any product to market or even completed a human trial, will provide vaccines to Manitoba and Canada so long as enough provinces get on board to fund the research. They said they need $150-million from the Federal Government.
Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface, Dougald Lamont, said nothing about Pallister's deal stands up to scrutiny - especially when the government's own vaccine task force announced just today that Manitoba will be ramping up to 20,000 vaccinations a day in a few weeks.
Lamont said there was no request for proposal or call for submissions. Providence appears to have been picked out of the blue, despite having virtually no track record.
Multiple filings with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) from 2016 to August 2020 show that Providence Therapeutics' headquarters and mailing address are at a house in suburban Calgary.
The Chairman of the Board is Ken Hughes, a former PC Alberta MLA and Minister of Energy who was also an MP from 1988 under Brian Mulroney. David McLaughlin, who is Pallister's Clerk of the Executive Council, was deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff to Mulroney at the same time Hughes was an MP.
Lamont said Pallister's gambit is "a grift" and said it's clear the three Premiers who are supposed to be interested in the vaccine - Pallister, Ford and Kenney - who have all bungled the Covid-19 response, and they are trying to find a way to shift the blame to the Federal Government.
"Pallister and the PCs are more interested in manufacturing grievances than vaccines, because they want to pit Alberta companies against Quebec for a possible federal election this year," said Lamont. "How is it that of all the possible organizations that might have a shot at developing a Covid-19 vaccine, Pallister picked the one that might make its Conservative chair money?"
Brad Sorenson, the President and CEO of Providence, was also embroiled in a major lawsuit involving another company, Arcturus Therapeutics, run by Sorensen's friend Joseph Payne. Payne was accused of trying to give the formula for a cancer mRNA vaccine to Sorenson without consulting with the board.
Arcturus won a bid to try to develop a Covid-19 vaccine from Singapore, but its clinical trials have been disappointing.
Lamont said he worked for the International Centre for Infectious Diseases (ICID) on a bid to bring a pilot vaccine manufacturing facility to Winnipeg, with a special focus on developing HIV Vaccines. He said Manitoba and Canada already have public vaccine development capacity that Pallister and the PCs are completely ignoring: VIDO in Saskatchewan, the University of Manitoba and the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, which produced a vaccine for Ebola.
Lamont said that Pallister spending money is disgraceful, especially since the funds could be used to house the homeless, reduce cuts to education, or provide relief to business.
"We're facing massive cuts, jobs and business losses, Pallister is using our money to play political games to build a company in Alberta," said Lamont. "He could be saving lives right now by making sure people who are homeless have a roof over their heads."