Ombudsperson Jay Chalke says office lacks power to investigate health firings

B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke says he won't launch a review of the health firings scandal unless he obtains unanimous support from the all-party legislative committee.

Probe could damage credibility of ombudsman's office, Chalke says

Ombudsperson Jay Chalke appeared Wednesday morning in front of a legislative committee to outline his concerns about probing the health firings scandal. (B.C. government)

B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke says he won't launch a review of the health firings scandal unless he obtains unanimous support from an all-party legislative committee.

Chalke previously raised red flags about his office's suitability to probe the firings of eight health researchers nearly three years ago, noting that the issue has become a partisan matter. He's also worried his office doesn't have the legislative authority to properly probe the matter.

Chalke outlined these concerns in a 10-page letter sent last week to the Select Standing Committee on Finance, an all- party committee that is trying to determine if his office is the right fit to probe the firings.

In September 2012, the government fired eight health ministry employees citing an alleged breach in the handling of confidential public health data.

One of those terminated, University of Victoria PhD candidate Roderick MacIsaac, killed himself three months later.

On Wednesday, Chalke said he wants support from both NDP and Liberal members of the committee.

Probe could 'damage' office

An outcome that results in this matter being referred to my office on a divided motion and then is followed by months, if not years, of criticism of the choice of my office to conduct the review, will damage my office through no making of my own," Chalke told the committee.

He also raised concerns about confidentiality, saying he'd only do the review if confidentiality agreements are waived for people he wants to interview. If an ombudsperson review is eventually selected, it would be conducted in private.

By contrast, a public inquiry would do similar work, but most of the work in that investigation would be public.   

READ: CBC reporter Richard Zussman's liveblog of this morning's hearing

With files from Richard Zussman

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