Friday, June 7, 2013

Health Minister's briefing book that the government didn't want you to see

Premier Christy Clark shuffled her cabinet on Sept. 5, 2012. Back then, some of us wags used the “shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic” line. Little did we know, the B.C. NDP, under captain Adrian Dix would run aground and the Liberals would keep sailing after the May 14 election.

On election night, Clark lost her seat in Vancouver-Point Grey to the NDP’s David Eby. She is hoping to win a by-election in Kelowna sometime this summer. Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, who became Minister of Health on Sept. 5, 2012, also lost her seat, in Vancouver-Fairview, to the NDP’s George Heyman. I covered the Vancouver-Fairview riding for the Vancouver Courier

The day that MacDiarmid was announced as Health Minister, I sought the briefing book and transition information that staff provided her (she was not formally sworn-in until Sept. 26, 2012). I finally received that on June 4, 2013, after MacDiarmid had become the ex-Health Minister. 

The government invoked an extension from the original disclosure date of Oct. 19, 2012 to Dec. 3, 2012. On Nov. 28, 2012, it asked if I would consent to a delay until Jan. 17, 2013, so that the Office of the Premier could decide what information it wanted to withhold. I expressed my opposition. 

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner granted a 10-day extension to Dec. 17, 2012. 

It took 271 days (or eight months and 29 days) from filing the request to receipt of the documents. MacDiarmid did not last that long as Minister! 

I have complained to the OIPC. It is abundantly clear that the government preferred not to have the records about its most complex, costly and controversial ministry in the public domain until after the election. This is not an isolated case. Governing parties at all levels in Canada are increasingly exploiting the toothless federal, provincial and municipal access to information laws to delay publication of information until after elections, so as to avoid controversy. 

So, on the day we find out who will succeed MacDiarmid, I present to you her briefing book for the $17 billion ministry. The document was subject to what I believe is unreasonable censoring.

Yet more evidence of why Clark’s promises about open government were hollow. 

Public key here

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Fraser Health fat-cats nickel-and-dime wheelchair-bound seniors

Not sure which is the more outrageous story in British Columbia this week. 

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman and city manager George Murray have apologized profusely and deny they were using chicken poop as a weapon against the homeless. Local advocates for the homeless beg to differ.

The Fraser Health $25-a-month wheelchair charge is a $300 a year tax on people with mobility problems who are in the waning years of their lives, who have already contributed to society and should not be burdened with more costs that they may not be able to afford.

Fraser Health's Murray
Fraser Health argues that there are exemptions for those with disability benefits and waivers for those in hardship. Fraser Health operates with the blessing of the Ministry of Health, ultimately governed by Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals. 

So who are the people at Fraser Health and why do they really need to charge elderly patients $25 a month for their wheelchairs beginning in September? 

Dr. Nigel Murray is the president and CEO who was paid $384,660 and reimbursed $45,299 in expenses for the year ended March 31, 2012. Add it up and that's $429,959, which is enough to pay the $25 wheelchair fee for 1,433 Fraser Health patients for a year.

Vice-president of corporate services integration Brian Woods was paid $298,584 and expensed $7,125.

Philip Barker, the vice-president informatics and transformation support, got $257,504 in wages and $23,398 in expenses. 

Marc Pelletier, the vice-president of operations and strategic planning, got $247,065 and $5,603 respectively. Peter Goldthorpe, vice-president Lower Mainland capital projects, real estate and facilities, was $234,360 and $4,454, respectively.

The nine members of the board of directors were paid a cumulative $151,125 and had $6,401 in expenses. (The $157,526 expenditure is the equivalent of wheelchair fees for 525 patients for a year.)

                                                remuneration  expenses
Chair David Mitchell $28,750      $967
Arvinder Bubber                  $16,500       $276
Robert Forrest                     $22,500 $2,119
Christopher Gardner              $7,625       $195
Gurpreet Gill                       $13,000       $885
Marlene Grinnell                  $18,250       $323
Darlene (Deanie) Kolybabi $14,750        $944
George McLeod                    $17,750       $692
Inde Sumal                          $12,000       --

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