… and discuss the Jay Chalk report

Columbia River-Revelstoke riding MLA candidates discuss B.C.'s ombudsperson Jay Chalk report.

It was a rash decision made five years ago leading to the death of one person and the dismissal of eight Ministry of Health employees an issue that has recenlty resurfaced. In 2012 eight employees working on a drug research program lost their jobs after being accused of inappropriate and potentially criminal conduct.

B.C.’s ombudsperson Jay Chalke has recently released his report after he and investigators went through 4.7 million records, and interviewed 130 witnesses under oath, after a call for a public inquiry.

Chalke’s investigation took over 18 months and when it wrapped up, he recommended that the government apologize to the individuals and make goodwill payments between $15,000 and $125,000.These payments are to be accompanied by a personally written government letter of apology to each researcher. As well the report suggests a scholarship of funding be setup at the University of Victoria in honour of their co-op student Roderick MacIsaac, including an endowment of $500,000.

MacIsaac was one of the researched fired by the government. He was just two days away from the end of his student co-op. Maclsaac ultimately took his own life after interrogations by government offiicials.

As British Columbians are preparing to take to the polls for the provincial election the Liberal party of B.C. is receiving some backlash for their response to the issue.

“The handling of the health ministry firings in 2012 is a dark mark on the Province of British Columbia, one that led to the death of an innocent worker. We should never forget the consequences of this government’s actions in this case,” said NDP Columbia River- Revelstoke riding candidate Gerry Taft.

Taft went on to criticize Premier Christy Clark’s leadership saying she had many times to accept responsibility.

“She should personally apologize to those affected and their families, but instead she has continued to deny, hide, and deflect, ensuring the entire disgraceful situation will forever be clouded in secrecy,” said Taft. “The handling of the health firings is similar to the ‘triple delete’ scandal; the illegal handling of provincial documents. This case also demonstrates a culture of dishonesty, secrecy and contempt for the general public.”

BC Green party candidate Samson Boyer said the Roderick MacIsaac case is a tragic result of this Liberal government’s abuse of power.

“Roderick MacIsaac is dead and seven innocent people were fired from the Ministry of Health. Several of the investigators who cost Roderick his job and ultimately his life have either moved on to pursue other opportunities or have actually gone on to be promoted and given raises under the Liberal government,” said Boyer. Boyer said it is unacceptable how it was handled and it took Christy Clark far too long to apologize for this is a clear act of injustice.

“At least this report shows for a fact that Maclsaac was innocent of any wrongdoing and suggested the other researchers receive compensation, which the government obliged. This case is indicative of the Liberal government’s corruption and focus on self-interest,” said Boyer.

Independent candidate Justin Hooles suggested that the government make changes to protect public employees rights to prevent anything like this to happen again. “This situation was handled too hastily, and based on the assumption that the accused were guilty. The government should have a committee review the report from Chalke, and create a list of changes needed to ensure the protection of public employees rights and to prevent such an instance from occurring again. My heart goes out to those who were affected by this poorly managed state of affairs,” said Hooles.

Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok said that the head of public service has accepted all recommendations made in the report to ensure this never happens again.

“The ombudsperson has provided the government with recommendations to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and I understand the head of the public service has accepted all the recommendations. It’s also important to note the report is clear there was no political interference,” said Clovechok. Clovechok said that they want public service to be a place where people want to work and are treated fairly.

Taft, however, stood firm on his belief that when a mistake is made that leaders should take responsibility and make sure improvements are made.

“To stand as a candidate for the B.C. Liberals is to endorse this kind of behavior, behavior that the people in this area absolutely reject. We expect better from our leaders. We demand transparency, and when mistakes are made, we need our leaders to take responsibility and make improvements to ensure that they are never repeated,” said Taft.

Premier Clark has been adamant that the government had no interference in this case, as the ombudsperson report had no findings of political interference.