Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Cabinet wants MPs to sign non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to view vaccine contract secret terms

Cabinet made a demand for MPs to pledge allegiance to secrecy in order to view contracts with Covid-19 vaccine manufactures worth billions of dollars.

Members of the Commons public accounts committee said it’s a dangerous precedent to limit scrutiny of federal spending

On Feb 13, 2023 during a Public Accounts standing committee meeting, Bloc Québécois MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné tabled a motion to give MPs access and view the contracts without redactions in a secured place with no electronic devices allowed

“It’s because these documents were signed at the beginning of a pandemic when everybody was desperate for vaccines, when companies were being told to rush vaccine production, do testing in an unprecedented way, in a way they normally don’t do it,”Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said on February 16, 2023 at a Public Accounts committee meeting.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said “these companies were exposed to way higher liability” and were pushed to rush out products to the market breaking their standard testing protocols that take years to complete.

“So that’s why these companies said, ‘If I’m going to deliver you this product that I haven’t tested in my normal way, I want to have different conditions.’”

Sinclair-Desgagné said he seemed to be “representing pharmaceutical reps rather than his constituents.”

“We as parliamentarians don’t have to sign non-disclosure agreements with pharmacy companies—that is an aberration,” she said.

For two years MPs have been trying review the contracts in unredacted form with AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Medicago, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi.

Chair, Conservative MP John Williamson asked “What are you trying to guard against exactly?”

Housefather responded “My concern would be that something came out”.

“It sounds like they’re trying to protect the government and not the taxpayers,” said Conservative MP Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West, AB), who called the proposal “a horrible precedent” for all Commons committees.

“We cannot allow something like this to stop parliamentarians from doing their job,” said McCauley. “It makes you ask, what’s next?”

McCauley quoted from a Washington Post article piggy backing on a Public Citizen report.

Public Citizen obtained unredacted copies of the COvid-19 vaccine contracts from a number of countries which “offer a rare glimpse into the power one pharmaceutical corporation has gained to silence governments, throttle supply, shift risk and maximize profits in the worst public health crisis in a century.”

NDP MP Blake Desjarlais also expressed concern cover the request for NDA’s to be signed. He also said the government shouldn’t have agreed to any NDA clause when it knows it could be a breach of confidentiality when subject to scrutiny in parliament.

“The Government of Canada cannot super-navigate the will of Parliament,” said Desjarlais. “The will of Parliament is asking that these documents be readily available.”

The COVID-19 vaccines cost, on average, nearly $30 per dose, according to a report published on December 6 by the Auditor General, who had access to the contracts. With the Government of Manitoba, one Canadian producer, Providence Therapeutics of Calgary, agreed a charge of $18 per dose in 2021, with a “pretty decent profit at that pricing.”

Bloc Québécois MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné (Terrebonne, QC) said taxpayers deserve reassurance they weren’t cheated by vaccine dealers. “These are commercial contracts with pharmaceutical companies,” said Sinclair-Desgagné, noting other jurisdictions have disclosed what they paid for vaccines.

“They charged different prices to different countries for the same vaccine,” said Sinclair-Desgagné. “Europeans paid $14.50 per dose, Americans paid $19.50 a dose. Pharmaceutical companies with the same vaccine charged different rates. It’s to their advantage that this remain confidential.”

It was reported in December 2022 that Canada was about to waste millions of doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, costing taxpayers billions.

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Jordan is a casual reporter for BC Rise


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