During the sometimes tense conversation between the three City of Powell River mayoral candidates broadcast live by the Peak on October 15, a dispute arose between incumbent Dave Formosa and fellow candidate Ron Woznow about the future of Santé Veritas Therapeutics.
The company is building a 40,000-square-foot cannabis facility in Powell River and has the option to allow for phase two and phase three of development that would expand the operation in Townsite.
The debate began when Woznow responded to a viewer’s question about how candidates would attract investment to Powell River.
Woznow said he had first looked hard at the question through the record of economic development under Formosa and Powell River Economic Development manager Scott Randolph. According to Woznow, $3 million had been spent by the city over the the last seven years. That number does not match City of Powell River records for development funding.
“The number of permanent good jobs that have been created is zero,” said Woznow. He then said Santé Veritas had suspended its construction project in Townsite.
“They don't know if that project is ever going to get finished,” said Woznow.
Formosa said work had been stopped for a period of time because the company is in the middle of a merger.
In May it was announced that Santé Veritas was merging with Baker Technologies, Sea Hunter and Briteside, all United States-based companies, to create a new multinational corporation called TILT.
“They have not left Powell River and they've not done what it is you say they're doing,” said Formosa. “Whatever you just said is all shock and news to me. Santé Veritas is alive and well.”
Woznow said he had contacted Santé Veritas chief executive officer John Walker.
“He explained to me, as Dave said, there's a merger going on,” said Woznow. “But, I talked to Michael Orr, who is the major shareholder of Santé Veritas. His exact words to me is what happens in Powell River is of minor interest to us right now. So you've got three American companies. You've got Michael Orr, major shareholder of Santé Veritas, and he's saying it's minor interest. I'm as optimistic as everybody. I hope that they decide to push ahead and create the jobs that everybody was promised.”
In an email reply about the issue to the Peak, Walker provided some context.
“We have in fact temporarily suspended our construction while we conclude a complex merger with three US-based firms,” said Walker in the email. “We see this merger as a significant positive development and anticipate its consummation within only weeks. Mike Orr is our chairman, and the key thought leader responsible for bringing the TILT merger into being.”
Walker called the merger a significant strategic accomplishment that represents meaningful upside growth potential for both the company and the communities in which TILT will operate.
Walker said Orr has not been focused on day-to-day Powell River operations.
“My role as CEO, Santé Veritas, is to bring our first facility into operation in the shortest time possible, and lay the framework for additional expansion in Powell River,” said Walker. “I’m delighted to confirm that nothing has changed relative to those plans.”
The full discussion of Santé Veritas during the debate can be viewed at prpeak.com.