Excerpt from Question Period in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday (Oct. 24, 2017) between Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar and Agriculture Minister Lana Popham:
P. Milobar: Yesterday the minister of intimidation shared some startling information with this House.
Mr. Speaker: Member. Member, that statement is out of order.
Mr. Speaker: There is no minister of intimidation in this House.
Mr. Speaker: Member, if you could please rephrase your question without a reference to a….
P. Milobar: I apologize for mistaking the Minister of Agriculture for the minister of intimidation. I withdraw that.
Yesterday the Minister of Agriculture shared some startling information with this House. This after she sent a coercive letter to a law-abiding company, a letter most would consider unbecoming a minister of the Crown, a letter even the Georgia Strait Alliance characterized as “an eviction notice–like letter.”
Earlier she told the Vancouver Sun that she was investigating one of the top scientists in the Ministry of Agriculture. His sin? Producing research that doesn’t work for the minister and her friends. But then in the chamber, the minister said that it wasn’t just Dr. Marty under her eye, but an entire lab was being reviewed.
So to the minister, which is it? Is it Dr. Marty who she’s trying to intimidate or the entire lab?
Hon. L. Popham: Thank you for the question. I’ll be clear with the member: there is no investigation, formally, and nobody is being fired. But we are focused on ensuring that there is integrity in our lab. With the cooperation of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, we’re reviewing the results of previous samples to make sure there is integrity in our results.
As I’ve said, we’re in the initial preliminary assessment phase, reviewing the overall fish health audit program from front to back, which is welcome in the scientific community. This will involve looking at our policies and practices of the lab and examining them for scientific rigour, and I don’t understand why the members across the way would have any problem with that.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Kamloops–North Thompson on a supplemental.
P. Milobar: It is a little hard to take the minister seriously. She says that there’s not an investigation, and two sentences later she says “investigation.”
She told the Vancouver Sun: “There were some very strong allegations that were made, and that’s very concerning, so we are looking into that currently.”
In the space of the weekend, she went from investigating Dr. Marty to now reviewing all of the work done by the ministry’s lab. Now, that doesn’t fit with what the minister said yesterday in this House. She said the review was being undertaken because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans asked for it.
Can the minister table, in this Legislature, exactly what form her investigation has taken?
Hon. L. Popham: I’m very happy to answer this question, because when it comes to integrity, you will find that our government makes sure that that’s a priority.
Our priority, for the member’s information, is ensuring that the public can trust the information that government produces, so we can work together to protect B.C.’s wild salmon and the nearly 10,000 jobs that depend on it.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Kamloops–North Thompson on a second supplemental.
P. Milobar: Let’s be clear for the minister. She has accused a respected scientist, a respected public servant, of lacking integrity. She has told someone who is serving the people of British Columbia that she doesn’t believe his work because it doesn’t match her world view.
Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the question.
P. Milobar: And she seems unable to give anyone a hint of evidence about his alleged wrongdoings.
She said it was because First Nations and others don’t agree with him in the Vancouver Sun, but then she said, in this House, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has raised serious concerns — talk about shooting first.
To the minister, was Dr. Marty given the decency of an official warning that the minister he reports to was going to publicly accuse him of lacking integrity?
Hon. L. Popham: As I said at the beginning of question period, there is no official investigation happening on any individual, and nobody is being fired. The only people in this chamber that are mentioning individuals is the official opposition.
Our lab in Abbotsford is very well known to do excellent work, but when allegations are made, we take them seriously because we want to make sure on the world stage that we have the respect from other scientists around the world. It’s very important to the work we do. I would imagine that the members on the other side of the House would also want our lab to be held up at the highest esteem on the world stage.
Source: BC Hansard (Transcript, draft)