Question Period debate in the B.C. Legislature on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017.
P. Milobar: Let’s be very clear. This is not about whether we value wild salmon. We do. This is about the actions of intimidation by a minister to tenure holders and the civil service.
Let’s look at the actual timeline of this. The minister met with the federal Minister of Fisheries on October 11, yet this review was not discussed when they met face to face in Vancouver. The minister indicated originally that this was a result of complaints of First Nations last week before the W5 article came out. Then the W5 article came out, and until the DFO not discussed when they met face to face in Vancouver. The minister indicated originally that this was a result of complaints of First Nations last week, before the W5 article came out. Then the W5 article came out, and until the DFO acknowledged that they had not officially asked for a request, we then heard about the scientist being on W5 triggering the review.
Within minutes of the statement from the DFO, the minister demanded some cover. It turns out she actually really is the minister of intimidation. And the DFO sent a second statement.
Mr. Speaker: Member, if I may ask you to rephrase that. We have no minister…. We will not accept a reference to a minister of intimidation. We have no such minister. If you could please rephrase that.
House Leader for the Official Opposition.
M. de Jong: I say this with a measure of reluctance, having canvassed the authorities and the conventions in this House. There are strict conventions about parliamentary language, and I recognize that. They have developed over many, many years, and they are important. It’s important that we all respect them. But nothing that the hon. member has just said contravenes any of those rules, and it is fundamentally improper, in my view, to demand that they be withdrawn.
I will say on behalf of the member…. I will repeat the assertion. The “minister of intimidation” is entirely parliamentary, and they will not be withdrawn.
Mr. Speaker: Members, the point I’m trying make is that temperance and moderation are important to dialogue. My preference would be that you not use that language in this House.
P. Milobar: Within minutes of the statement from the DFO, there was a demand that the DFO send a second statement. First, it was a fish pathologist, Dr. Marty, who was under investigation, and then it was the entire lab, whose work was challenged, supposedly, by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Will the minister confirm that within minutes of the statement of 3 p.m., sent by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, she demanded that her office or the Office of the Premier — or perhaps both — get on the phone to DFO, demanding they give her cover?
Hon. J. Horgan: I appreciate…. I’ve been in opposition for a time, and I know how challenging it is to get beyond the headline and talk about the issues that matter to people.
People care about wild salmon in British Columbia. People are concerned about the declining stocks that come through that member’s territory on their way to migrate to bring more salmon back to the people of this great province.
When you have a scientist that’s responsible for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ view on how we’re doing our work saying on national television that there’s a concern, and follow-up questions from the local media, I think the appropriate and responsible thing to do in the interest of the public’s concern…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. J. Horgan: …is to get to the bottom of it. That’s why my Deputy Minister, Don Wright, will be looking at the whole issue and ensuring that the public interest is protected and ensuring that there are no witch-hunts. Those people on that side of the House should be ashamed of themselves for talking about it.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Kamloops–North Thompson on a supplemental.
P. Milobar: It’s quite shocking to hear the answer back from the Premier that seems to not want to recognize the actual timelines and the actual lack of taking responsibility for their own actions — and that being the actions of the Minister of Agriculture.
The minister’s intimidation track record does show that there has been a history in these last few weeks. And does the minister really expect and the Premier really expect this House to believe that with that track record, there was not inappropriate pressure from either her office or the Premier’s office — or both offices — to the DFO after they clarified that they had not asked for an investigation?
It is time that this minister of the Crown stop casting blame on others and take responsibility for her own actions and her own words. British Columbians expect and deserve a much higher standard of conduct from their ministers of the Crown than they are seeing from this minister. Does the minister…?
Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the question.
P. Milobar: Does the minister think that side conversations and television show comments are enough of a threshold to trigger intimidating letters to businesses and intimidating reviews into the reputations of professional of public servants?
Hon. J. Horgan: I don’t want to be belittling the good people at Hansard television, but I’ve got a hunch that W5 is viewed by more people than the question that just came from that minister. And that’s the concern that the public has. The concern that the public has is there’s a dispute among scientists…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. J. Horgan: …about the impact of finfish aquaculture on our wild salmon stocks. And an appropriate responsible, from a government official, a minister responsible for that lab, is to get to the bottom of it, and that’s what we’re doing.
Source: BC Hansard (Transcript, draft)