It shouldn’t be long now before Speaker Darryl Plecas presents the people of British Columbia with the long list of “certain activities that were taking place within the Legislative Assembly.” He made the promise of full disclosure during a speech to the Legislature Management Committee in early December last year, when trying to explain the immediate suspension, with pay, of Legislature Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.
Both men were informed of their suspension while on duty, with TV news camera on hand to record their escorted eviction by a City of Victoria police officer and a member of Speaker Plecas’ office staff.
James and Lenz have never been publicly informed of the specific charges against them or the reasons for their middle-of-the-day removal from their offices and the legislative precinct.
In his explanation of events to the committee, Plecas said he was sorry he couldn’t provide the details leading to his dramatic actions because they had been handed to the police, and “as the matter is now before the police it would not be appropriate for me to comment on this matter any further.”
He then proceeded to lecture MLAs and senior staff members on his duty to taxpayers and how diligent he had been in fulfilling his responsibilities for security and “anything I think is inappropriate in terms of spending.” He proclaimed – with Donald Trump style bombast – that detailed information would never be “buried” while he was Speaker “… there will never, ever, be anything buried here. Never.”
With that promise made, he proposed another meeting of the management committee, “at which I will give you a long laundry list of my concerns” and “I will be proposing a full audit on the Speaker’s 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.”
He didn’t mention Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s recent examination and passing grade approval of departmental spending. Nor did he mention that, with the next committee meeting set for later this month, and with this month running out faster than a police probe can proceed, he may be forced to bury his laundry list for a while longer – a week or two, possibly forever.
Then again, if he and his aide Alan Mullen are entirely sure they can prove skullduggery, minor or major, don’t they have a duty to say why they hold that belief? Now?
I have other suggestions for Speaker Plecas. When the House is in session, he holds the most important of tasks – to bring order out of the chaos to which a democratic house can quickly dissolve; calmly, and without fear, favour or enmity to any political party or individual politician. He is the person who brings quiet to the storms, not the one who joins back-alley conspiracy talk.
He administers the rules made and shaped by the Members. But, he is not the master of the house; just its humble servant. Or should be.
Back in the early 1900s, the BC Legislature was bumbling through tumultuous times – and this was before political parties ruled to form government or opposition. Historian S. W. Jackman, in his Portraits of the Premiers (John Foster McCreight 1871 to WAC Bennett 1952), describes BC politics from 1900 to 1910 as being in a stage of “complicated tergiversation.”
Don’t worry; I had to look it up, too. I chose the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Tergiversation: evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement; equivocation; desertion of a cause, position, party, or faith.
Example: What Mullen discovered and reported to Plecas “could be potentially criminal.” Plecas’ response when Liberals requested more info on the possibility of fraud: “I never mentioned fraud. Just checking the books doesn’t necessarily follow you’re talking about fraud whatsoever.”
A final word from Mike Farnworth, NDP House leader, who suggests the Liberals are just making political hay and could be hindering the work of the RCMP and the two special prosecutors hired to check the whispers and the whisperers. “We are going to continue to respect the work of the police.”
Fine. Any chance New Democrats could also find, let alone continue, some respect for the work and reputations of a couple of senior and once trusted employees until they are found guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt of any crime?