Premier defends B.C. Speaker, says his 'impartiality not in question'
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, November 28, 2018 9:12AM PST
VICTORIA - Premier John Horgan says he has confidence in legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas even though he wishes the events of the last week at British Columbia's legislature had unfolded differently.
Horgan said he believes Plecas will continue to perform his impartial duties despite the disruptive events that resulted in two top officials in the legislature being placed on leave amid an RCMP investigation.
The premier made the comments Tuesday at a news conference marking the conclusion of the fall sitting of the legislature, which started Oct. 1.
The abrupt suspensions of sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and clerk of the house Craig James, along with Plecas's role in the ongoing drama, drew intense attention at the expense of the government's achievement in passing legislation that will bring ride hailing to the province next year, Horgan said.
Horgan also said the announcement in October by LNG Canada that it was proceeding with a $40-billion liquefied natural gas export terminal in Kitimat and the current electoral reform referendum were also highlights for his government this fall.
More than 20 pieces of legislation were passed during the session, including a speculation tax on second vacant homes, a poverty-reduction plan and a new Human Rights Code.
While Horgan said he is proud of the work they do, the suspensions of the officials at the legislature following an investigation by the Speaker's office has once again thrust B.C. on the national stage for its political episodes.
“Despite the challenges that have not just happened recently over the time I've been a member here, and also as a student of history, over many decades in B.C. This oftentimes is the centre of oddities in Canada and true to form here we are again.”
The premier said Plecas has a difficult job and suggested patience as the police conduct their investigation with the help of two special prosecutors.
“His impartiality is not in question as far as I'm concerned,” Horgan said.
But Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said Plecas appears to be empire-building after revealing he tried to have his special adviser Alan Mullen appointed acting sergeant-at-arms as Lenz was placed on administrative leave along with James.
The Liberals failed in their attempts to bring forward and rescind an earlier motion where the legislature voted unanimously to place Lenz and James on administrative leave.
“We're very concerned about the events of the past week,” said Wilkinson. “There's a much greater need for transparency. There should be nowhere to hide and we've seen the NDP hide all week.”
Lenz and James say they have yet to be told about the allegations they face and they have hired a lawyer who has demanded their reinstatement while the police investigation proceeds.
Plecas has said all three party leaders supported the motion to suspend the men and it would not be appropriate for the officers to continue to be at the assembly in the face of an active criminal investigation regarding their actions related to the assembly.
The RCMP has said it is investigating staff at the legislature, but it has not said who is the subject of the probe or described the investigation as criminal in nature.