Finding fault

Investigation into researcher firings could be a game-changer

It’s reasonably easy to know when Premier Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberal government is having its feet put to the coals.

In an effort to deflect intense media investigations, dogged scrutiny from the Opposition ranks and public concern about how they are being governed, a series of good-news media releases and smiling photo ops suddenly appear.

The announcements usually involve small grants to fund programs for groups that are assisting vulnerable folks in our society.

Obviously, these are welcome gifts, and they provide the desired message that the government “really cares for the less fortunate in our society.”

Other favourite deflections are the announcements that the B.C. Liberal government is following through on its election promises – creating jobs, working with First Nations, and the development of liquefied natural gas production and export.

Perhaps it’s a bit cynical, but it appears to be the modus operandi for our provincial government.

Well, the heat is definitely on now.

Back in 2012, the B.C. Liberal government abruptly fired eight contracted health researchers who were assessing eligibility of drugs for Pharmacare coverage when the government suspected there was a possible data security breach.

When the researchers asked why they were being fired, a government spokesperson said no answer would be forthcoming because the RCMP was investigating the matter.

Eventually, the government realized there had been a mistake, and six of the eight researchers settled for payments and re-instatement.

However, one researcher is suing the provincial government for wrongful dismissal and the other contractor is no longer alive.

When the story came to light in the media, the response was quick and sharp. Political parties and the affected researchers demanded a public inquiry and the general public appears to be in agreement.

Premier Clark initially downplayed the call for a public inquiry because it would be too expensive and unlikely to provide meaningful answers.

When documents surfaced showing the RCMP were not investigating the researchers for a possible security breach, the demand for a public inquiry heated up substantially and Health Minister Terry Lake asked new Ombudsperson Jay Chalke to investigate the matter further.

This investigation could be a game-changer if it discovers the B.C. Liberal government was acting callously when dealing with people working for the province.

Such a result would be another stain on provincial politics in British Columbia, and likely lead to calls for legislation to make all levels of government responsible for decisions they make and hold them accountable for the outcomes of those decisions.

Now that would require significant and refreshing attitude adjustments.

100 Mile House Free Press