To the Editor,
Ever hear of Connaught Labs? Probably not.
Only the Toronto Star has had the courage and common sense to publish a column on the demise of Canada’s once world leading pharmaceutical industry. All the rest of our right-wing, corporate-owned media has said little or nothing.
According to Mel Hurtig’s Canadian Encyclopedia, Connaught had its genesis in 1914 in the University of Toronto. Their first products included a live virus rabies vaccine and horse diptheria antitoxins.
In 1922, when Frederick Banting and Charles Best demonstrated the effectiveness of insulin, Connaught was the first laboratory to introduce insulin commercially.
During WWII, Connaught prepared human blood plasma. It also was one of the early producers of penicillin — the first to produce in crystalline form.
When Jonas Salk came out with the polio vaccine, again, Connaught was one of the first on the scene preparing a large part of the inactivated polio vaccine used in clinical trials across the land, also in the US of A.
Hurtig’s Canadian Encyclopedia was published in 1985. At that time, Connaught, which had been purchased by the Canadian Development Corporation (CDC) in 1972, was going “great guns” — headquarters in Toronto, a lab in Pennsylvania and joint ventures in South America. So what hell happened?
Well, Brian Mulroney happened!
Don’t forget, 1985 is the time of down-with-the-Berlin-wall “Capitalism triumphant” and I have to throw this in. Despite the great corporate scandals and the critical collapse of Wall Street, 2007/08, some people still believe in this “free market” nonsense?
Since Connaught was a public company, a no-no at the time, Mulroney privatized the whole mess. But it would be unfair to blame “On the Take” Mulroney for all of this,. During the Chretien-Martin years, Canada’s pharmaceutical industry was “hollowed out.” A French company (Sanofi) swallowed Connaught and Canada’s world-leading “Pharma” was no more!
Justin Trudeau speaking in the House blamed the Conservatives — he was partly right. However, Jagmeet Singh was closer to the mark when he blamed both the Liberals and Conservatives.
A lesson to be learned here? Let’s hope so!