BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. NDP demands public inquiry into 2012 firings of eight health workers

06/08/2015 07:16 EDT | Updated 06/08/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - British Columbians deserve to know what really happened when the province fired eight health researchers three years ago and went on to claim an RCMP investigation was underway, says the Opposition leader.

"Nothing short of a public inquiry will get to the bottom of this," New Democrat leader John Horgan told reporters on Monday outside the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Eight Ministry of Health researchers were either fired or suspended in 2012 after an investigation into the relationship between university researchers seeking grants and employees working on B.C.'s PharmaCare program.

One of the researchers, co-op student Roderick MacIsaac, later killed himself. Other researchers sued the province and several settled out of court.

Horgan's call for a public probe comes days after documents revealed the government never sent evidence of any alleged wrongdoing to the RCMP, even while officials announced the Mounties had launched an investigation.

The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, outline how police tried repeatedly to obtain information that never came, and that officers eventually closed the file in July 2014.

Horgan said the latest revelations are just part of the government's history of withholding information.

"You've destroyed Freedom of Information documents. You've had a pattern of behaviour within the senior levels of government where they do not give information to the public," he said about the governing B.C. Liberals.

"And on this most critical of issues, you made up a story. You fabricated a story of an RCMP investigation where none existed."

A public inquiry would force officials to testify, Horgan said, unlike when labour lawyer Marcia McNeil looked into the firings late last year and several employees refused to answer questions.

A Health Ministry spokewoman said in an email that the government has apologized for the firings. Sarah Plank added it's now time to focus on implementing the recommendations from McNeil's report, so mistakes are not repeated.

"Government very much regrets that mistakes were made," wrote Plank.

The public deserves accountability, not apologies, and it's time for Premier Christy Clark to come clean with the people of B.C., said Horgan.

"That's why we need an inquiry, an independent inquiry, to find out just why it is that they've been perpetuating a lie for three years," he said.