FLETCHER: Little integrity left to protect

By on September 11, 2017
Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas is escorted from the B.C. legislature chamber by clerk Craig James. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press/Pool photo).

During the past summer of political uncertainty in B.C., there was a lot of earnest talk about protecting the integrity of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

The legislature website describes the role this way: “The Speaker is neutral, responsible for making sure that all MLAs, no matter what party they belong to, are treated fairly and impartially.”

This claim has taken a beating this year, notably on March 16, in the last question period before the spring election. NDP leader John Horgan was pressing then-premier Christy Clark on huge corporate donations to the B.C. Liberal Party, amid loud and ugly heckling, even by B.C.’s coarse standards. 

B.C. Liberal MLA Linda Reid’s weak performance as Speaker was ending that day, and she apparently gave up even the pretence of neutrality. Reid admonished “members on both sides” to behave, and in a move that should have got him expelled, Horgan turned on her.

“Members on both sides?” he snapped. “What are you talking about? They’re braying like donkeys and we’re quiet.”

Horgan was right. A small thing, but it illustrates the state of the people’s house today. Which brings me to the new Speaker, suddenly independent Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas.

After the B.C. Liberal Party cancelled his membership Saturday, Plecas granted a softball interview to a Vancouver newspaper. He allowed that he secretly negotiated a deal to become Speaker and help prop up the NDP-Green alliance so the people can have stable government.

What a guy.

Plecas is a central figure in the post-election drama. Elected in 2013 by his party’s brand, he had no hope of making Clark’s cabinet, dominated as it was by Fraser Valley veterans Mike de Jong, Rich Coleman and Mary Polak. Now as Speaker, Plecas gets a $50,000 raise to a cabinet minister’s salary.

Plecas was repeatedly wooed by the NDP and Greens during the summer to take the Speaker job, and give their precarious minority one more vote. This would of course provide vital assistance to the new government to undo 16 years of B.C. Liberal policy, so Plecas rejected it as an unthinkable betrayal of the party and voters who supported him. And rightly so.

At a party retreat in Penticton after the B.C. Liberal government was defeated, Plecas threatened to sit as an independent if Clark stayed on as leader. Apparently looking for an excuse to exit, Clark not only quit the leadership on the spot, she vacated her Kelowna West seat too. That’s two valuable gifts for the NDP-Greens, from two unlikely sources.

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth handled talks with Plecas. He’s a hero to his party and didn’t dirty his hands in the process. It was Plecas who misled his party and constituents to cover his tracks.

And so this is how Plecas begins his term as the symbol of fairness and integrity.

Interim B.C. Liberal leader Coleman, himself a chronic, bullying abuser of legislature debate rules, was asked if he could respect Plecas in his new role. “I respect the position, but not him,” he replied.

Green leader Andrew Weaver’s contribution to all this was to gloat, and to misrepresent Plecas’s action as some sort of noble gesture to work collaboratively across party lines. He accused the B.C. Liberals of “acting like high school students” because they didn’t applaud Plecas for his betrayal.

A recall campaign in Abbotsford South is already gathering steam. It remains to be seen if Plecas will last the two years he needs to collect his suddenly enriched MLA pension.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

One Comment

  1. Frank Sterle

    September 16, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Speaking of “little integrity left to protect” ….
    The following was printed large, front and centre on the cover-jacket of the May 1 Vancouver Province newspaper, titled “Stories you can trust”, eight days before the B.C. election …
    “The team of professional journalists at The Province is committed to seeking the truth for you. From the latest trade rumours at the ice rink to ice bombs on the Port Mann Bridge, Province reporters and columnists dig deep on the news and sports that matter to our readers. We speak out for the vulnerable: those struggling to survive on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside; victims of violence, and Indian brides brought here for sham marriages and abandoned. We champion the underdog and stand up to those in authority who can make it right. That has always been our promise to you. We won’t stop now.”
    It’s signed (assuming he wrote it) Harold Munro, Editor-in-Chief, The Province.
    Such a bold claim, yet it to me simply does not at all ring true. And in regards to a profession that has seemingly become one of but a buck and a byline (i.e. a company paycheque and a frequently published name with stories), never mind one of genuine comfort for the afflicted and affliction for the comfortable. It truly astounds me how a newspaper can claim to, for one thing, “champion the underdog” while having help prop up for sixteen years (example site: https://dogwoodbc.ca/even-media-donates-christy-clark) an increasingly corrupt quite-conservative B.C. Liberal party government — indeed until their last-ditch-effort dying breath — that essentially did the precise opposite of “champion the underdog” (unless one might count as an underdog an already very profitable fossil-fuel-producing corporation that needs more taxpayer subsidies).
    I’ve often heard quoted in the conservative news-media author/humourist Mark Twain’s stinging humour in regards to misleading statistics; but hadn’t some revered Canadian media critic once pen the line – perhaps immediately following the last federal election which finally saw the worthy defeat of the Canadian-Press-supported theocratic Harper Conservative regime — that there are three kinds of notable journalistic misconduct: ‘Corruption, morbid corruption, and Postmedia’? (example site: https://www.thestar.com/business/2016/01/30/the-problem-with-postmedia-olive.html

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