More ques­tions than an­swers at the leg­is­la­ture

Speaker Ple­cas will pro­vide MLAs with a ‘laun­dry list’ of con­cerns next month

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - ROB SHAW

VIC­TO­RIA The ex­tra­or­di­nary clash be­tween MLAs and the Speaker of B.C.’s leg­is­la­ture at a meet­ing on Thurs­day has raised the stakes in the on­go­ing cri­sis at the cap­i­tal and set a new time­line for events.

Here are five things to know about where we are at: 1.

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.”

2.

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.” 3.

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.” 4.

Ple­cas’ 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. 5.

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.

Dar­ryl Ple­cas

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