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

Freezing temperatures expected in Lower Mainland

Snowfall warning ends, but surge or icy air to continue

Proponent of controversial quarry looking to get out

Sumas Mountain mine has triggered widespread opposition

NDP statements may impact farmland-for-industry decision, Abbotsford mayor says

City has asked for removal of farmland from Agricultural Land Reserve to spur industrial growth

Ammonia concern prompted closure of Abbotsford ice rink

Ice arena at Matsqui Recreation Centre has been shuttered for more than a week

No immediate plan to convert farmland to sports fields

Abbotsford lacks ball diamonds and other fields, but solution could prove controversial

VIDEO: Widen the freeway now, Langley chamber insists

Business advocates describe cancelling bridge tolls and highway expansion as ‘disappointing.’

BCHL Today: Powell River stuns Vernon and BCHL grads lead Team Canada

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

One dead after targeted shooting in Coquitlam

IHIT also asking for information about a car on fire nearby

Reports of money laundering in B.C. real estate ‘troubling’: attorney general

News report alleges people connected to fentanyl trade are using B.C. real estate to launder money

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Two more medals for Canada, and men’s hockey loss

Team Canada shines on the speed skating track, but fall short against the Czechs in hockey

Heavy snowfall warning continues

Kelowna - Expect snow in the Okanagan, Southern Interior and the Kootenays

VIDEO: Injury-riddled Vancouver Giants find a way to edge Edmonton Oil Kings

Giants win 2-1 at home despite missing four key defencemen from lineup

RCMP member challenges court to prevent further disciplinary action

RCMP member launches appeal to avoid new hearing over alleged harassment

Port of Vancouver program examines impact of marine noise on local whales

Man-made noises can interfere with orcas’ ability to hunt and communicate with other pod members

Most Read