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

Athletes win Premier’s Awards

Armstrong’s Jacob Taylor among eight from Interior region to capture award

Funtastic grants soon available

Organization gives back to sporting community with grant program

Music of the Heavens to be an out of this world musical experience

Centre for Culture and Technology at UBC Okanagan teaming up with Orchid Ensemble for Nov. 30 event

Program keeps B.C. drivers in check for safety’s sake

RCMP warn drivers to stay safe this holiday season or suffer the consequences

Vernon one of Canada’s most dangerous places

Penticton, Kamloops, Kelowna, Lake Country and Salmon Arm also make Maclean’s list

Okanagan ski hills open for the season

Both Big White and Silverstar Resort open for the 2017-18 season Thursday

Giving Tuesday will be celebrated in Vernon on Nov.28

Giving Tuesday Okanagan mobilizes to celebrate the global day of giving November 28

MP announces intention to run

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold sets sights on 2019 federal election

Cougar confronts man in Clearwater

Clearwater resident Barry Joneson had a close encounter of the cougar kind

Letter: Closing pot shops not in public interest

Letter writer says the public is not being served by Kelowna, West Kelowna going after pot shops

Panda picks Argonauts for the win

Giant panda at the Toronto Zoo picks Argos to win Grey Cup on Sunday

Black Friday fervour wanes as some consumers, retailers shun practice

Some businesses are choosing to opt out, while some shoppers are turning to buying online

Trudeau apologizes to excluded residential school students

PM makes statement to former students in Nfld who were left out of previous compensation, apology

Most Read