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

“Does Kirby care?” Heiltsuk Nation using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

“No excuse” for killing of two young grizzly cubs

Reader hopeful someone will come forward with information

UPDATE: U.S. firm fined $2.9M for fuel spill that soiled B.C. First Nation territory

The Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016

No delivery services hard on local families

New parents Candace Knudsen and Bjorn Samuelsen spent five weeks away from home

Fashion Fridays: 5 casual summer dress styles

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

Injured fawn at B.C. vet will be euthanized Friday night unless claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer is currently being treated at West Kelowna’s Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

Most Read