Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg, MB - Manitoba Liberals say Manitobans deserve to know how the long-time business partner of a well-known violent convicted pimp ended up being appointed by the Pallister PCs to the boards that nominate and appoint Manitoba's judges.
Gail Halko was appointed by the PCs to Manitoba's Judicial Nominating Committee on April 24, 2019 and the Judicial Appointment Committee on February 26, 2020.
In 1999, she was co-owner of Grand Medicine Health Services, along with Gary Wayne Gabriel Patterson, a Toronto lawyer-turned-pimp who at the time was awaiting trial on charges of obstructing justice, kidnapping, uttering death threats and living off the avails of prostitution.
Grand Medicine Health Services had just won a contract to provide prescription drugs by mail to northern Manitoba, Northwest Ontario and Nunavut. APTN reported that the contract happened under Paul Cochrane, a Health Canada bureaucrat who was later jailed for receiving kickbacks.
On June 21, 2000, Patterson was found guilty of ten charges and sentenced to seven years in prison for kidnapping a teenager, forcing her into street prostitution and threatening her with mutilation if she disobeyed his orders. He served four years. His trial and sentencing made national news and was covered in the Globe and Mail.
An APTN investigation showed that Halko and Patterson continued to own the company together over a number of years. On Grand Medicine Health Services' current website, it states that, "Gail Halko has been an owner and Director of Operations Of Grand Medicine Health Sciences Pharmacy since it's [sic] inception."
APTN's investigation found that Halko walked away from the business in 2000, handing it to Patterson, who passed ownership to his mother. Then, in 2003, Grand Medicine was sold to a newly-formed company called Northwest Healthcare. Halko returned as Grand Medicine's chief operating officer and a shareholder." Other shareholders included Patterson's twin eight-year-old daughters. After completing his sentence, Patterson became Northwest Healthcare's President.
APTN reported that, "Northwest owns 51 per cent of Grand Medicine while Halko owns the other 49." In 2011, the Federal Government expanded Grand Medicine Health Services' contract, and it was receiving $9-million to $10-million a year. In March 2019, it was bought by the Tribal Councils Investment Group of Manitoba.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, MLA for St Boniface, said the PCs need to explain how Halko made it through screening for a committee that will pick judges.
"Are the PCs really so short on qualified candidates to pick judges that they couldn't find one - not one - who didn't own a business for years with a convicted violent criminal?" said Lamont. "She needs to be off these committees now, and the Premier and former Justice Minister need to explain how this foul-up happened."
Halko was a significant donor to the PCs, donating $1,315 in 2014, $2,580 in 2015, $2,675 in 2017, $3,863 in 2018, and $2,194 in 2019.
Halko was appointed to the judicial council in April, 2019, the month after the sale of her company. Three months later, in July 2019, controversy erupted when it emerged that Patterson had purchased the Chalet Strip club in St. Boniface for $1.3-million.
"Finding people to nominate and appoint judges is not something that should be taken lightly," said Lamont.