What has Premier Christy Clark got to hide?

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John Horgan Premier Designate, B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader, BC New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader, BC New Democrats

By John Horgan, Leader, B.C.’s New Democrats

A man is dead; seven other lives were thrown into chaos; government ministers conducted a campaign of misinformation over several years, and yet not a single person has ever been held responsible.

It’s hard to believe something like this can happen in Canada, but it’s happening right now in Christy Clark’s British Columbia. This government has orchestrated one of the most cynical cover-ups in the history of this province.

Earlier this week, all of the surviving health researchers – who were abruptly fired and falsely portrayed as the subject of an RCMP investigation by the Christy Clark government in 2012 – wrote an open letter to Health Minister Terry Lake. They are all calling for an independent public inquiry. The letter is also signed by Linda Kayfish, sister of Roderick MacIsaac, who took his own life shortly after he was fired.

Their unified call for an inquiry joins an already loud and growing chorus of British Columbians demanding the truth. Among them is also Graham Whitmarsh, a former deputy health minister and a central figure in the scandal. Whitmarsh has said publicly that he would welcome the opportunity to testify under oath, provided his former colleagues are also called to testify.

Premier Clark has suggested an inquiry would cost too much and violate people’s privacy and former health minister Mike de Jong claimed that he did not know what question an inquiry would answer. Even the lawyer tasked with an internal review of the firings concluded that “Two of the most difficult questions I considered during my review were who effectively made the dismissal decisions and what factors were considered. Those questions remain unanswered.”

In other words who made the decision and why?

At first, Premier Clark refused to answer any questions because there was an “ongoing police investigation.” Now we know that was untrue, and there never was a police investigation. Next, the premier tried to get away with a shrug, a grudging apology, and a vague admission that mistakes were made. Now, after almost every political observer in B.C. has called for a public inquiry, she’s retreated behind a new-found concern for privacy and potential costs.

All of the people whose privacy the premier claims to defend are calling for a public inquiry, and those who made the firing decisions did so while on the public payroll. As a result, their actions should be on the public record. What’s more, the premier clearly had no interest in anyone’s privacy when her health minister stood in front of the TV cameras and falsely claimed the RCMP was investigating these researchers.

And it is truly offensive for the premier to argue that revealing the truth might cost too much money. Her government wasted more than $5 million on her do-nothing pet projects, wasted $43 million on a real estate fire sale in Coquitlam, and plans to spend up to $8.5 million on advertising in the coming year.

This doesn’t need to be a sprawling, endless legal fishing trip. There are a small number of basic questions that need to be answered: Who made the decision to fire these people? Why were they fired? Who decided to dream up a phony police investigation and use it to smear these people?

Premier Clark’s government brutalized eight citizens who were engaged in important work for the public interest. Premier Clark’s government used the RCMP as a political prop to smear these people, and now Premier Clark is desperately trying to cover her tracks. This behavior is totally unacceptable in Canada or any democratic society. A public inquiry is an absolutely necessity.