B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake says he sees no conflict in the timing of the release of information to media about the denial of an environmental assessment certificate to the proposed Morrison Mine project.
But the NDP has written B.C. Securities Commission executive director Paul Bourque asking for an investigation into Lake's comments to a Kamloops Daily News reporter about the project's fate early on Oct. 1.
NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said Friday he sent the letter after hearing about the order of events and when the media were informed of the rejection of Pacific Booker Minerals' proposed copper/gold/molybdenum mine.
The Morrison Mine is located 35 kilometres north of the village of Granisle, near Babine Lake, and was rejected due to the distinctive type of sockeye salmon found there.
According to Ralston's letter, Lake told the Daily News reporter early in the morning the certificate was denied. The reporter then contacted the company for comment. It told him no decision had been made and the B.C. Environment website gave no indication the assessment certificate had been turned down.
Hours later — mid-afternoon that same day — other news outlets began reporting the certificate was denied.
Ralston, who is Opposition House Leader, said Pacific Booker is a publicly traded company, so any information going out about permits for the Morrison Mine needed to be handled in a way that doesn't affect trading.
"We're not alleging the minister did anything wrong, but it does raise questions, given the timing of it, his judgment in this matter," he said.
"Where a stock is publicly traded and a major announcement going to be made that would affect share value, that information is guarded until there's a halt in trading called or the exchanges are closed."
Lake said he checked his records and confirmed that he found out about the decision on the environmental assessment on Sept. 27 or 28.
On the following Monday, Oct. 1, he knew there was a scheduled phone call at 8:30 a.m. between the company and the executive director of the environmental assessment office. It was to be followed up with an emailed letter at 11 a.m. The news release was slated for 2 p.m.
Lake didn't recall what time he spoke to the Daily News reporter, but he did so knowing the information was being released.
"I knew the decision had been made, I knew the company was going to be informed. And in my brain, the letter was being sent at 11 o'clock," he said.
"I don't see there's any impropriety here at all. I knew the decision had been made, I knew the company had been informed, I knew the news release was going out."
Ralston said from the information he's received, Lake's discussion with the reporter took place before the announcement was public and while markets were still open.
"I'm not alleging any wrongdoing by Minister Lake, but think it should be looked at," he said. The information could affect share prices and from what he's heard, there was no change in the stock values that day.
"I understand the media reports were being made in the afternoon while trading was still open. Those are third-party reports we got," he said.