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'Bizarre' fictional COVID-19 report, penned by Preston Manning, resurfaces on social media

The man Alberta is paying $253,000 to find out what went right – and wrong – with the province's pandemic response has already come to his own conclusions in a report published online last spring.

The report, posted online by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a think tank that has been tied to controversies involving Canada's residential school system and climate change denial, contains a fictional account of a review of the federal government's COVID-19 response.

It's written by Preston Manning, 80-year-old retired politician who served as Calgary MP and leader of the Reform Party of Canada for 13 years.

Manning's been on his own fact-finding mission since last year, but Alberta Premier Danielle Smith appointed him last week to head a $2-million review into Alberta's handling of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The FCPP's publication, called the Report of the COVID Commission was posted on May 11, 2022 along with a YouTube video Q&A with Manning. Both drew little attention – until now.

Manning calls the work "a fictional, futuristic description of relevant political developments in the post-COVID period in Canada."

While admitting it is fiction, he adds the purpose of publishing it is "non-fictional."

"(It's) to explore the likelihood that sooner or later Canadians will demand a full scale investigation into the management of the COVID crisis by our federal government," he says, adding the outcome of the investigation will likely result in a change in government.

In his account, a commission is created in 2022, when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to slow down, but "public anger" was increasing exponentially.

"Millions of Canadians who had been told that their fundamental rights and freedoms were constitutionally guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms learned to their dismay that those rights and freedoms could be easily violated by health protection measures implemented by well-meaning but unelected bureaucrats and suspended at will by the federal government through a presumptive and unnecessary invoking of the Emergencies Act," Manning writes.

"The Freedom Convoy, originally launched by independent truckers protesting a vaccine mandate which put thousands of them out of work, was joined by thousands more Canadians from all walks of life."

As it progresses, Manning's account results in increased support for a political faction called the "Common Sense Movement," complete with its own leader – a woman named Leah Wahlstrom, whose father headed a trucking company that "had been forced into bankruptcy" by government policies.

NOT IMPARTIAL

Lisa Young, a political scientist at the University of Calgary says the document is a manifestation of his "axe to grind" over the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I just read Manning’s fictional report. It ends by musing about whether public servants and politicians should be held financially liable or criminally responsible for the pandemic response," she said.

On top of calling the document "bizarre," she says it shows he is "not an impartial or dispassionate panel chair."

Young says Manning's work "reads like a weird fever dream, where the public embraces the idea of a commission and $10 million is fundraised for its work."

"This man has been charged with leading a panel to review Alberta’s COVID response."

She says Smith's appointment of Manning to lead the review is more likely supposed to satisfy her supporters who seek action from her to 'right the wrongs' of the pandemic response.

"I imagine that she hopes that establishing the panel with Manning at its head will allow her government to shift focus away from COVID toward other issues that might be more electorally palatable."

PROVINCES FOLLOWED FEDERAL MODEL

In an interview with the FCPP, published on their website shortly after Manning's work was posted, he said that he believed the COVID-19 response was "mismanaged."

"I think there is some profound lessons to be learned from this if we ever get into any situations similar to this again, how not to do some of the things we did."

Manning says even the provinces made errors with their pandemic responses.

"A number of them took their lead from the federal government and one of the main things the federal people did – and I get into this in this COVID report – I think this would come out if you had a full-blown commission; the federal government seemed to automatically turn this thing over the health-care bureaucracy – to the great big health department.

"Some of the provinces – I know at least one of the Maritime provinces, when you ask them 'why did you do the same thing? Why did you turn it over to your health-care bureaucracy? (They say) 'well, the feds did it and we assumed that was the model.'"

MANNING'S CONCLUSIONS

In his fictional account, there is a new majority government formed with Common Sense Coalition at the helm. Manning provides a number of conclusions and recommendations, as expected with any other policy review.

His main conclusion is that the federal government "grossly mismanaged its response" to the pandemic.

"It chose, at the very outset, to assign the crisis management to Health Canada – the federal health department bureaucracy – rather than to emergency management organizations designed, equipped, or even especially created to handle such emergencies," he wrote.

His other conclusions include a lack of timely assessments by the government on health protection measures, courts failing in their duty as guardians of Charter rights, mass media "uncritically defending" the government's decisions and the government's use of "fear as the primary instrument for motivating Canadians" among many others.

REACTION TO THE DOCUMENT

Critics of Manning's fictional report are calling it mostly absurd, filled with Manning's own views on topics like the Freedom Convoy, vaccine mandates and masking.

Some say excerpts of his documents suggest Manning's belief that treatments for COVID, such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin – are effective.

"Why did the federal government initially engage in what appeared to be a deliberate smear campaign to discredit the use of pharmaceutical interventions (i.e. drugs) to treat COVID-19 and its mutation, even prohibiting physicians from using them, when scientific evidence as to the safety and efficacy of such treatments was already available?" the report reads.

Naheed Nenshi, former Calgary mayor, summed up his opinion of Manning's fictional COVID-19 commission report with a simple phrase.

Manning's panel, which has not named any other members so far, is expected to deliver a final report on Nov. 15.

CTV News has reached out to Manning and the FCPP for comment on the document.

(With files from CTV Edmonton)

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