VICTORIA — The extraordinary clash between MLAs and the Speaker of B.C.’s legislature at a meeting Thursday has raised the stakes in the ongoing crisis at the capital and set a new timeline for events. Here are 5 Things To Know about where we are at:
Speaker Darryl Plecas wants MLAs to reconvene in mid-January, where he has promised for the first time publicly that “I will give you a long laundry list of my concerns” that led to the suspension Nov. 20 of clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, as well as the information Plecas gave the RCMP that has resulted in an investigation. Then he will ask MLAs to vote to authorize full forensic audits into spending at the legislature.”I will talk about everything but the criminal investigation,” said Plecas. “At that meeting, I will be proposing that we have a full audit, a full forensic audit, on the Speaker’s office — that is, my office — one on the clerk’s office and one on the sergeant-at-arms’ office. You will get every detail of how much I spent. You want full disclosure. The public deserves full disclosure. Boy, are they going to get it.”
Plecas has promised that he and his aide, Alan Mullen, will resign if the forensic audits do not back his concerns.”I am completely confident — completely confident — that those audits will show that we have a lot of work to do here,” said Plecas. “If the outcome of those audits did not outrage the public, did not outrage taxpayers, did not make them throw up, I will resign as Speaker, and Mr. Mullen will resign as well.”
The allegations against James and Lenz are still not known. Neither men have been charged with any crime. However, Plecas told MLAs he has “a duty to taxpayers to make sure if I ever see something that is inappropriate in terms of spending, financial matters, that I pursue that with due diligence. There would not be a taxpayer in this province who wouldn’t want me to do that. They would also want me to pay attention to the workplace environment and to make sure that people are treated fairly, etc.”
Plecas’s concerns about the legislature appear to date back years. Though he was named Speaker in September 2017, he told MLAs that the issue he’s identified “needs to be fixed. And it needs to be fixed through the Speaker’s office because it hasn’t been fixed for years.” If true, it could potentially include allegations that existed during the tenure of previous speakers, MLAs, financial staff, clerks and other officials.
The business of the legislative assembly has largely ground to a halt during the scandal. MLAs were unable to approve the financial figures for the financial year ending March 31, because the acting clerk would not sign off on a declaration that the books are free of fraud. The auditor general will also not approve the books with unknown allegations being investigated. The NDP and Greens did push through spending for new security locks on legislature doors, out of fears the old system may fail, but Liberals voted against that plan saying they wanted to know first if security contracts are part of the allegations in the scandal. MLAs are also late setting next year’s $80-million legislature budget.
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