Agriculture Minister Lana Popham hugs George Quocksister, one of the leaders of a two-month protest occupation of Marine Harvest salmon farms, at a fundraiser for Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard in Courtenay, Oct. 21, 2017. At left is Alexandra Morton, anti-fish farm activist who has also participated in the protest. (Facebook)

Premier John Horgan’s deputy to probe B.C. salmon health research

Opposition presses Lana Popham on allegations about scientist

Premier John Horgan has called in his deputy minister and head of the B.C. public service, Don Wright, to sort through allegations of conflict of interest at a B.C. government lab in Abbotsford in charge of livestock and farmed salmon health.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham continued to defend her actions at the B.C. legislature Wednesday, after it emerged she had phoned Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist Kristi Miller to ask about Miller’s complaint of conflict of interest on the part of a researcher in the agriculture ministry lab in Abbotsford.

Horgan said the allegation, which aired on the CTV program W5 on Oct. 15, was serious enough to warrant a review by Wright. The B.C. Liberal opposition has seized on the issue and “blown it up like an atomic bomb,” Horgan said.

Popham has been under fire since last week, when her letter to salmon farm operator Marine Harvest was made public. She has denied that the letter represented a threat to cancel the company’s salmon farm tenures in the Broughton Archipelago area north of Vancouver Island.

RELATED: Popham warned salmon farm not to restock

In question period Wednesday, Horgan took all questions directed at Popham, including whether she had misled the legislature by claiming there was a request by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to investigate the Abbotsford lab.

Speaking to reporters after question period, Popham said she did not mislead the legislature, and “there is no investigation.

“We’re undertaking a review, and that’s been handed off to the public service, because that’s the right way to go about it, and I’m confident that review will come back with a recommendation about whether we investigate or not,” Popham said.

She refused to comment on the status of provincial researcher Dr. Gary Marty, but confirmed that Miller had described an apparent conflict of interest involving Marty in relation to salmon farm research at the Abbotsford lab.

Protesters including anti-salmon farm activist Alexandra Morton and aboriginal activist George Quocksister have occupied two Marine Harvest salmon farms since late August.

RELATED: First Nations occupy Marine Harvest fish farm

Popham was asked why a Facebook photo appeared to show her celebrating with Morton and Quocksister at an NDP fundraiser in Courtenay on Oct. 21, at which Popham was the featured speaker.

“I attended a fundraiser for an event,” Popham replied. “I was met by protesters at the door, and I engaged with them respectfully as I would with any protesters who met me at the door.”

Just Posted

Decision not to fund library turning into election issue

Unless RDOS directors step in staff cutbacks and a reduction of hours will start Feb. 1

Justin Kripps and Jesse Lumsden slide to fourth in two-man race

Canadians celebrate bittersweet day sliding to fourth in world cup bobsleigh

Thrift store volunteer returns Bible to Alberta church

Salmon Arm woman knew documents were meaningful and made efforts to contact parish.

UPDATE: Fog warning for Okanagan Connector, Coq reopens

It is a messy morning on area highways as a dense fog warning is in effect and an accident shuts the Coquihalla southbound

Bylaw complaints down

Only three tickets were handed out in 2017. All for parking infractions.

Video: Documentary features Okanagan ice climbing

First documentary for Penticton filmmaker captures elusive Okanagan ice climbing

Senior randomly stabbed in B.C. mall food court

Woman arrested after victim, 71, suffers serious injuries

Penticton bookkeeper may face jail time for embezzlement

Sentencing stances ranged from three years of probation to six months in jail for $60k embezzlement

B.C. Liberal hopefuls begin final leadership push

Five MLAs, one outsider pitch policies to party members

Lawyer says RCMP cleared in car wash shooting

Independent report into shooting of Kayman Winter not yet released to the public.

UPDATED: ‘Young, innocent’ teen hit during Vancouver shootout dies

15-year-old Coquitlam boy was in a car driving by the scene

Ontario man charged with selling Canadian’s usernames and passwords

Ontario man ran site that peddled billions of pieces of personal data: RCMP

David Emerson quits lumber talks as legal action begins

Former federal minister served as B.C. softwood trade point man

Men accused in Michael Bonin’s murder knew him: IHIT

20-year-old’s body found on a rural service road North of Hope in April

Most Read