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Province denies firings aimed to protect BC Liberal donors' profits

The provincial government has filed a response in court denying allegations that health ministry firings last year were an attack on pharmaceutical drug research aimed at protecting the profits of donors to the BC Liberal Party.

The province and then health minister Margaret MacDiarmid "deny each and every statement of fact in the Notice of Civil Claim except where expressly admitted in this Response to Civil Claim," said the document filed in the BC Supreme Court on May 28.

The response was to a notice of claim that researcher William Warburton filed in the court eight days before the provincial election.

"The Province's acts against Dr. Warburton are part of a bad faith program by the Defendants to end the investigation of harmful effects of drugs which risk leading to diminishing payments to their political contributors," said Warburton's notice. "[The acts] constitute misfeasance in public office as the Defendants were aware that their deliberate acts against Dr. Warburton were illegal and would likely harm him."

The province's response accused Warburton of failing to meet the terms of his contract by:

"Improperly accessing Provincial data";

"Failing to perform all of the Services at the Ministry of Health";

"Failing to advise persons requesting access to Material to make their request to the Province and instead providing such Material directly to such persons"; and

"Failing to ensure that the persons to who the Plaintiff provided such Material (including Provincial data) were properly authorized to receive such Materials."

The province also denied that its public announcements damaged Warburton since they did not name him and were "communication by the Province to the public of information the public had a bona fide interest in knowing." *

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Last July the province terminated Warburton's $1-a-year contract that gave him access to data.

Besides Warburton, the health ministry fired seven people as part of the investigation. They have all filed lawsuits or initiated grievance procedures.

In the election MacDiarmid lost her seat in Vancouver-Fairview to the NDP's George Heyman.

* Typo corrected, May 31.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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