Could we just pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and ask who is responsible for the shambles at our harbourside BC Legislature? I’m sure you’ve been reading about high-flying expenditures on travel accounts, $1,000 suits, and special hats for the Speaker of the Legislature.
Years ago, during the Dave Barrett era, then-Speaker Gordon Dowding often joked about his “new three-cornered hat” and the difficulty the hat maker had shaping it to “my three-cornered head.” But, those were days when we heard as much laughter in the House as we did angry exchanges.
Today – these past few days anyway – our political world has been seething with rebukes, teeming accusations of strange purchases, mysterious expense account claims and political leaders, who should know better, vowing to keep two men – Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz – suspended from their duties, however long the inquiry into their guilt – or innocence – may take.
Andrew Weaver says he’s “livid”; that the conduct of the two men is “absolutely abhorrent.” If true.
Ah yes, those two words are always important.
The accusations of guilt roll off our tongues easily. Writers of letters to the editor know no shame when they echo the old cry “give ‘em a fair trial, but hang ‘em in the morning.”
I am all for punishment that fits the crime. But, I can wait for the guilt to be declared before the execution.
I think we need to voice a few unspoken observations, like asking Mike Farnworth, Andrew Weaver – the Green mouse that roared – and Speaker Darryl Plecas himself, how he and the man he hired – Alan Mullen – got to be accusers in the issue.
Speaker Plecas tells part of the tale in his long denunciation list. He recalls the day when he became aware that one of the perks of his new job was the authority to hire an “advisor.” He wrote: “I was finding the Legislature an unusual place and I was feeling uncertain about who I could trust – and the prospect of having an advisor of my own choosing was attractive.”
So, he turned to his old friend Mullen who had worked as a prosecutor in the BC Penitentiary where Plecas worked as a judge. “I came to know him as trustworthy and competent, and we became professionally acquainted, and stayed in touch after work in the prison justice system.”
Nothing wrong with that unless we wonder what experience both men could bring to the Office of Speaker.
The maze called “parliamentary procedures in British Columbia” is not mastered overnight, but for the past year or so, we have had in that key position a Speaker with a “special advisor” on the tough side of a learning curve.
How did Plecas get the high paying, prestigious job? Quite simple: he applied for it. New Democrats and Greens couldn’t apply because the loss of a vote would change the balance of power. The Liberals in caucus agreed they wouldn’t apply, but then Plecas quit the Liberal caucus and quite legally grabbed the golden ring as the only person reaching for it.
The enmity will last for some time.
As noted earlier, Plecas admitted he wasn’t comfortable in his new position, but he did get to have some friendly chats with his Sergeant-at-arms Lenz. who, says Plecas, on occasion warned that Clerk James tended to favour Liberals when he should have been neutral in all matters.
And, now we wait while lawyers and police officers work it out. It’s a pity that legendary Ted Hughes isn’t available for yet another bout for truth and justice. Ted is still active of mind and bright to the challenge, but I don’t think he would want another marathon.
Then again, if somebody were to ask, maybe Ted could recommend someone of like mind to sift the wheat from the truckloads of corn we’re getting. It would be nice, at the end of the road, to find out how many of the key players were in today’s game as they all claim – for the people, and how many for the power and the money.