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BCMA AGM - Unfunded liabilities?

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After the presentation of the Financial Reports at Saturday's AGM of the BCMA I asked Finance Committee Chair a couple of questions. As in the past, what interested me was what had been omitted rather than what had been included.

Page 2 of the 'white paper' report contains a listing of revenue and expenses, and under the latter heading was listed Consulting and Professional Fees in the amount of $998,101.00 This was further broken down on one of the projected slides as indicating that about $250K were 'legal' fees; but no further description.

My first question to the Chair asked what portion of the quarter of a million pertained to the Wang versus the BCMA case. The response was that it amounts $74,000 spent on that case in fiscal 2013.

Knowing that the case remains unresolved on several fronts, I asked what I felt was a fairly simple and straightforward question regarding the anticipated future financial liability in this case. After all, a basic rule of accounting and budgeting requires that future liabilities should be planned for to the greatest extent possible.

My question was ducked with alacrity by the Chair of the Finance Committee, Dr. Mark Corbett, and punted to the CEO, Allan Seckel. The manner in which this was done suggested that such a question had been anticipated. The suggestion was reinforced in my mind by the manner in which he responded, as well as by the content. During his response he looked continuously at the lectern in front of him, rather than at myself, the inquirer, or the general membership. The appearance suggested that he was reading a pre-written statement.

If this were the case, then it may explain why his first attempt to answer my question failed, since it didn't address the question I had actually asked. Meeting Chair, Granger Avery, at first seemed reluctant to allow me to press my question for an answer, but then demurred, whereat I repeated it. The CEO then gave his opinion that the likelihood of unfunded liability was "zero", but then conceded that he may have to "eat (my) words".

The exchange was interesting for a number of reasons.

My question was properly addressed to the Chair of the Finance Committee as a matter arising from his financial report. I find it difficult to understand why the CEO should be called upon to answer the question, and even that this was inappropriate.

Nonetheless, the CEO did disclose some interesting facts that are probably unknown to the general membership, since I do believe they haven't yet been shared with us. They are as follows:

He has been informed by their legal counsel that Dr. Caroline Wang has instructed her lawyer to seek leave to appeal her case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Now the Supreme Court of Canada is not obliged to hear this and makes a decision based on its perception of the value to the nation as a whole, as well as the nature of the case put before it. Former lawyer Allan Seckel thought that the probability that the Supreme Court would agree to hear the appeal was very unlikely.

The BCMA was successful in its action against the Association's insurer, Aviva, in compelling the company to cover the Association's legal costs. This puts the insurer in the driver's seat. It seems that the insurer has insisted that not only must the Association demand Full costs, they have been told they must demand Double full costs. (I had previously been unaware of this last concept).

It remains to be seen how this may go. CEO Allan Seckel seemed to think that it would go in the Association's/Insurer's favour I find this hard to understand since both the original trial court and the BC Appeal court found plenty of fault with the actions of Board members and staff of the BCMA. It must be remembered that defamation of Dr. Wang was proved, but that it wasn't found to meet the test of being malicious.. (Presumably that is the question that the Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to review?).

Association members have more than enough evidence, including that of their own eyes and critical comments made by learned judges, that the Board has acted badly. As physicians we bear collectively the shame of that. This is simply not how doctors should behave. It gives us a collective bad name, which amounts to a liability on all of us.

Chris Sedergreen


Cease fire banner, you don't speak for the people.