British Columbia

B.C. health firings take over ahead of LNG debate at heated legislature

A long-running Health Ministry scandal upstaged the main event Thursday for British Columbia politicians recalled to the legislature to deal with a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project.

Legislative change to give ombudsperson more power coming next week, says Attorney General

The B.C. health ministry firings upstaged the main event Thursday for politicians recalled to the legislature to deal with a multibillion-dollar LNG project. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A long-running Health Ministry scandal upstaged the main event Thursday for British Columbia politicians recalled to the legislature to deal with a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton said she will introduce a legislative change next week, giving the province's ombudsperson more powers to investigate the firings of eight health researchers, including one who committed suicide.

The government appointed Jay Chalke to conduct a review of the September 2012 dismissals despite repeated calls for a public inquiry by the Opposition New Democrats, the workers and their families.

Ombudsperson Jay Chalke appeared Wednesday in front of a legislative committee to outline his concerns about the extent of his office's ability to investigate the health firings. (B.C. government)

On Wednesday, an all-party committee began debating Chalke's likely appointment to head a review of the firings and suggested Thursday that a decision is likely by month's end.

"We're in here because we've been given one choice as a committee, and the choice is to refer to the ombudsperson or not," said NDP committee member Carole James. "A public inquiry is the route it should have gone."

Ombudsman review would be more efficient, Liberals say

Committee chairman, Liberal MLA Scott Hamilton, said next week's legislative change would ensure the ombudsperson faces no further roadblocks to conduct a review.

Hamilton said he supports an ombudsperson review over a public inquiry, but the committee, of which the Liberals hold the majority, has the final say.

"It's an opportunity for us to do this faster, cheaper, more efficiently," he said. "There's no reason for us to change course now."

Hamilton said the main focus of the summer legislative sitting is a proposed LNG law, but in regards to the health firings "the timing's impeccable, obviously, for us to be able to deal with something like this."

The legislature was recalled this week to ratify a law involving a proposed LNG plant near Prince Rupert but the health firings took precedence again Thursday after the NDP's repeated attacks on the government.

Chalke appeared before the committee Wednesday and said he needs more powers to access data and interview witnesses if he does an investigation.

The government has consistently refused calls for a public inquiry, saying that would an expensive and lengthy process.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.