Statement by BC New Democrat leader Adrian Dix and Worksafe BC critic Harry Bains on the botched investigation into the Babine Forest Products explosion

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There remain far too many unanswered questions about the tragic explosion at the Babine Forest Products mill.

It is clear that the Clark government has bungled the investigation into the causes of the explosion that killed two workers, injured many others and deeply scarred the community of Burns Lake.

Almost a year ago today, in the lead up to the election, cabinet ministers Shirley Bond and Rich Coleman intervened directly, ordering that a report by the B.C. Safety Authority on the explosion not be released to the public.

Now we find out that charges cannot be laid because WorkSafe BC made procedural errors while conducting its investigation.

Under Premier Clark’s watch, WorkSafe BC and the Criminal Justice Branch, agencies that are supposed to protect workers, failed to properly coordinate a critical investigation into a tragic event that caused death and injury.

It is simply outrageous that the Clark government allowed this to happen, especially considering the issue of workplace incidents and criminal investigations is not new.

A federal law passed in 2003 allowed criminal charges against managers and owners regarding unsafe workplace conditions, yet we have seen several incidents in British Columbia where workers have died but no criminal prosecutions were ever undertaken.

For example, in 2007, three workers were killed and 14 were injured in a rollover of a van transporting farm workers in Abbotsford. A year later, three mushroom farm workers were killed and two were left with permanent, life-altering injuries because of a gas leak.

Our questions to the premier are these:

Why didn’t the B.C. government learn from previous incidents and ensure WorkSafe BC investigators are trained to treat workplace injury locations as potential crime scenes?

Why did the two lead government agencies fail to talk to each other in the aftermath of the explosion to make sure the investigation was run properly and to ensure the investigation was not compromised?

And what steps is she taking to ensure that this inexcusable mistake is never repeated?

Premier Clark’s ministers were more than capable of intervening to hush up a hard hitting report into the cause of the accident when it was politically expedient, but they failed miserably when it came to ensuring proper investigation protocols were followed.

As a result, it was clear charges would not have held up in court.

A tragic case such as this, which caused death and serious injury, deserves better from Premier Clark and her government.