Urine Bison health ministry in Yukon did not notify government contractor of potential penalty, Canadian court says
A former Yukon health minister ordered to pay his successor a penalty of $1,000 for failing to ensure he had followed health care standards has had his appeal against the ruling dismissed, leaving him with nothing to pay to the successor he fired in 2008.
A British Columbia provincial court of appeal said Terence Davis was not entitled to a full legal review of the decision made by the Yukon health ministry in 2010, which stipulated the $1,000 fine for failing to follow health care standards.
According to the ruling handed down earlier this month, Davis, as then minister, amended the policy on the processing of medical prescriptions when he became aware in January 2008 that urine-eating bacteria could potentially cross the border from northwestern Canada into the United States.
Following the initial investigation in 2008, which found that contaminated liquids sometimes fell between the line but other products containing safe medication could also have contaminated the blood of some U.S. citizens, Davis changed the policy, establishing a no-brainer test for all Canadians travelling to the US.
He said the new policy would ensure the testing result would not enter into the border process if the items were sterile (i.e. water), and he indicated he would update the policy so that it would remain the case with any liquids made in the Yukon at the time.
The result was a more stringent test for Canadian specimens, which were tested outside of Canada for the first time in November 2008.
The Yukon health ministry notified the then-newly-appointed minister, Alain Gomery, of this news on 23 November 2008. Gomery promptly told Davis not to act on this information – or anything related to this being a system problem in the Yukon – until further notice.
On 11 December 2008, Gomery ordered Davis to sign a termination agreement, citing the previous minister’s failure to follow protocol and put into place tighter controls.
On 1 February 2009, Gomery issued Davis his first stipulated penalty letter; the next in November 2009 and the last in June 2010. Davis appealed the first two letters.
“Because Davis did not have any explicit evidence that he was legally obligated to refrain from acting on his instructions, and also because he was not harmed by his breach, and, particularly since these two formal letters came so late after he was already in a position of lawful discipline,” concluded Justice Thomas Heintzman, “I would agree with the judgment of the lower court that I hold that the determination of what was a systemic error was made on the basis of an error of fact.”