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Lights at the end of the tunnel?

BY Will Nicholls Jan 30, 2021

It’s been a long year, a sad and dangerous year. Covid-19 has played hell with just about every aspect of our lives. Then we see the lights shining at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, the tunnel seems to be getting longer instead of shorter.

Pfizer Canada is saying that large supplies of their vaccine will not be delivered as soon as promised. The cherry on top of this bitter sundae is that they are also asking the Canadian government for tax breaks. 

It might seem a bit paranoid to suspect a touch of blackmail surrounding the two points. It’s not difficult to understand however that smaller, slower deliveries ensure that the virus continues to spread, also ensuring governments are more desperate to pay whatever they ask. Of course, a responsible company such as Pfizer wouldn’t stoop so low to make a few more dollars, would they?

Let’s be clear about Pfizer’s request for tax breaks. Their application for tax relief was delivered on November 21, 2020. In their submission to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, the pharmaceutical giant asked for an increase to the Manufacturing and Processing Profits Tax Credit, which would decrease their federal corporate income tax rate. 

They also want tax credits that are now only available to Canadian-controlled private corporations to be accessible to multinational enterprises such as theirs. A few other tax relief ideas were included in such a way as to create what Pfizer sees as a “fair, clear predictable” tax system within Canada.

Pfizer also said that without a “fertile and hospitable environment” Canada may lose out to other countries. Other countries are apparently competing to invest in a strong pharmaceutical presence and are implementing tax policies to make that happen.

A possible brain drain was alluded to, as well, with the suggestion that production facilities may be moved to another country, which would mean the loss of well-paid and highly skilled jobs.

It may just be a coincidence that Canada received no new doses in the last week in January, leaving human taxpayers in this country out in the cold. Pfizer Canada has said though that the temporary setbacks in the delivery schedule would be fixed and they will make good on the shortages.

Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou claims that discussions with Canada concerning vaccines and tax relief are separate matters. Still, a person could wonder if the delivery shortages are a sign of corporate body language that just happens to be well-timed, coming just before the tabling of the federal budget.

All we really know is that human bodies are paying the price of this bait-and-switch routine. And it’s giving us all a little tunnel vision during this hard winter.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.