15 YEARS AGO… (July 24-30, 1996)
Streifel accused of failing to act on Gove report
Social Service Minister Dennis Streifel faced a barrage of criticism this week over the NDP government’s failure to investigate deaths involving children in the ministry’s care.
The controversy began when Mr. Streifel revealed there have been 14 ministry-related child deaths since the release of a report by Judge Thomas Gove last November calling for sweeping reforms of the province’s child protection system.
Mr. Streifel admitted that, despite the report’s call for an independent commissioner to probe all child deaths, none of the new cases has been investigated because the government has yet to appoint a commissioner.
Mr. Streifel said the ministry’s Child and Family Review Board, headed by his deputy minister, Bernd Walter, lacks the independence called for by Judge Gove.
Mr. Walter called those comments “dead wrong” and accused Mr. Streifel of refusing to allow child death cases to be reviewed.
On Thursday, Mr. Streifel said there have been 49 deaths of children in care or known to the ministry since November. B.C. Ombudsman Dulcie McCallum expressed “profound concern” over the state of child death reviews.
Flash forward: Two months later, Premier Glen Clark announced the creation of a new ministry to deal with child and family issues.
25 YEARS AGO… (July 24-30, 1986)
Vander Zalm wins Socred leadership race
Former Surrey mayor Bill Vander Zalm became British Columbia’s 28th premier, outlasting 11 other candidates to claim victory at the Social Credit leadership convention in Whistler this week.
Mr. Vander Zalm, a long-time cabinet minister under former premier Bill Bennett, received 64 per cent of the vote to defeat Attorney-General Brian Smith on the fourth ballot, ending a marathon, 10-hour battle.
Socred cabinet minister Grace McCarthy was eliminated on the third ballot, but declined to throw her support behind Mr. Vander Zalm, leaving him 12 votes shy of a majority.
Human Resources Minister Jim Nielsen was eliminated on the second ballot and threw his support behind the attorney-general, while Bud Smith, Mr. Bennett’s former secretary, withdrew and directed his delegates to the Vander Zalm camp.
Candidates eliminated on the first ballot included Vancouver-Point Grey MLA Kim Campbell and Saanich Mayor Mel Couvelier.
Union leaders immediately called on Mr. Vander Zalm to end the atmosphere of confrontation that developed between the province and public-sector workers during the Bennett regime.
Flash forward: Mr. Vander Zalm called an election less than two months after he was named leader and led his party to 47-22 seat win over the NDP.
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