Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas is escorted from legislative chamber by B.C. legislature clerk Craig James after being elected speaker Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press/POOL)

BC VIEWS: Little integrity left to protect

Darryl Plecas taints an already shabby B.C. political scene

During the past summer of political uncertainty in B.C., there was a lot of earnest talk about protecting the integrity of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

The legislature website describes the role this way: “The Speaker is neutral, responsible for making sure that all MLAs, no matter what party they belong to, are treated fairly and impartially.”

This claim has taken a beating this year, notably on March 16, in the last question period before the spring election. NDP leader John Horgan was pressing then-premier Christy Clark on huge corporate donations to the B.C. Liberal Party, amid loud and ugly heckling, even by B.C.’s coarse standards.

B.C. Liberal MLA Linda Reid’s weak performance as Speaker was ending that day, and she apparently gave up even the pretence of neutrality. Reid admonished “members on both sides” to behave, and in a move that should have got him expelled, Horgan turned on her.

“Members on both sides?” he snapped. “What are you talking about? They’re braying like donkeys and we’re quiet.”

Horgan was right. A small thing, but it illustrates the state of the people’s house today. Which brings me to the new Speaker, suddenly independent Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas.

After the B.C. Liberal Party cancelled his membership Saturday, Plecas granted a softball interview to a Vancouver newspaper. He allowed that he secretly negotiated a deal to become Speaker and help prop up the NDP-Green alliance so the people can have stable government.

What a guy.

Plecas is a central figure in the post-election drama. Elected in 2013 by his party’s brand, he had no hope of making Clark’s cabinet, dominated as it was by Fraser Valley veterans Mike de Jong, Rich Coleman and Mary Polak. Now as Speaker, Plecas gets a $50,000 raise to a cabinet minister’s salary.

Plecas was repeatedly wooed by the NDP and Greens during the summer to take the Speaker job, and give their precarious minority one more vote. This would of course provide vital assistance to the new government to undo 16 years of B.C. Liberal policy, so Plecas rejected it as an unthinkable betrayal of the party and voters who supported him. And rightly so.

At a party retreat in Penticton after the B.C. Liberal government was defeated, Plecas threatened to sit as an independent if Clark stayed on as leader. Apparently looking for an excuse to exit, Clark not only quit the leadership on the spot, she vacated her Kelowna West seat too. That’s two valuable gifts for the NDP-Greens, from two unlikely sources.

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth handled talks with Plecas. He’s a hero to his party and didn’t dirty his hands in the process. It was Plecas who misled his party and constituents to cover his tracks.

And so this is how Plecas begins his term as the symbol of fairness and integrity.

Interim B.C. Liberal leader Coleman, himself a chronic, bullying abuser of legislature debate rules, was asked if he could respect Plecas in his new role. “I respect the position, but not him,” he replied.

Green leader Andrew Weaver’s contribution to all this was to gloat, and to misrepresent Plecas’s action as some sort of noble gesture to work collaboratively across party lines. He accused the B.C. Liberals of “acting like high school students” because they didn’t applaud Plecas for his betrayal.

A recall campaign in Abbotsford South is already gathering steam. It remains to be seen if Plecas will last the two years he needs to collect his suddenly enriched MLA pension.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Qualicum Beach on path to ban plastic bags

Bylaw will get legal advice prior to third reading

RDN to improve ways to deal with bylaw disputes

New system being explored that will be more efficient and effective

Hotel, restaurant and multi-use residential complex proposed for Resort Drive

Parksville could soon see more rental units, some zoned for commercial use

Inside the music: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Big Read: VIMF in the Comox Valley exemplifies the spirit of an Island summer music festival

ECHO Players’ 2018/19 season announced

Qualicum Beach theatre company to show Peter Pan musical, Enchanted April and more

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Police confirm girl, 8 others injured in Toronto shooting; shooter dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

POLL: Do you use the bus system regularly

Question of the week, July 17

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

Most Read