In a recent revelation, the Canadian government admitted to a failed investment of $323 million in Medicago, a pharmaceutical company, resulting in neither the construction of a vaccine manufacturing facility nor the administration of a single COVID-19 jab.
The Department of Public Works acknowledged taking a substantial risk by subsidizing Medicago's plant located in Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’ riding.
Back in October 2020, the Trudeau Liberals entered a ‘non-refundable' advance purchase agreement with Medicago, despite uncertainties about Health Canada's approval for the vaccine's consumption. Joelle Paquette, director general with the public works department, confirmed the unusual contracting decision, stating, “We did not know at the time which vaccines would actually be authorized. There was no vaccine that existed at the time we put these contracts in place. We took a risk.”
Health Minister Mark Holland defended the advance purchase agreements, emphasizing the need to ensure a quick vaccine supply during the depths of the pandemic. The government signed agreements with various vaccine manufacturers, including Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson and Johnson, Novovax, Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline, and AstraZeneca, amounting to $8 billion.
Although Medicago received Health Canada approval in 2022, they faced setbacks after the World Health Organization rejected their application for emergency use due to ties with a major tobacco company. The company ultimately closed its doors in late 2022 following shareholder divestment by Philip Morris International, citing significant changes in the vaccine market.
Medicago, having never completed construction on its factory, incurred a cost of $173 million to taxpayers. Andrea Andrachuk, director general with Public Works, confirmed that Medicago voided the contract on February 3 after shutting down its operations in Québec City, resulting in the loss of 600 jobs.
Discussions were initiated to revisit the contract, but complications arose as Medicago's parent company, Mitsubishi Chemical Group, discontinued its activities in North America. The Trudeau Liberals have yet to disclose the details of the COVID jab contracts to parliamentary committees, and the terms of these agreements remain secretive.
Adding to the complexity, ownership of taxpayer-funded research reverted to Mitsubishi Chemical Group without federal recourse. When questioned about intellectual property ownership, Joelle Paquette clarified, “Medicago owns the intellectual property.” Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne revealed ongoing negotiations with Mitsubishi Chemical Group to obtain the intellectual property produced by Medicago.
The federal health committee, concerned about the lack of net benefit to taxpayers from the $323 million contract, initiated an inquiry. Conservative MP Stephen Ellis raised questions about the substantial payment made to Medicago without any tangible results, shedding light on the need for transparency and accountability in such crucial matters.