VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – A BC Liberal has taken the job of Speaker of the House in the Legislature against the wishes of his party.
As business resumes in Victoria, Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas has been acclaimed because no one else put their name forward.
It’s been a big question in the NDP/Green agreement, which has them holding 44 seats in the legislature. Giving one member up to act as Speaker of the House would have put their combined majority in question.
The loss of Plecas means the Liberals only have 41 votes compared to the 44 that the NDP/Greens have.
A by-election still needs to be held next month to replace the seat in Kelowna that former Premier Christy Clark left empty by her resignation. That, combined with the fact Plecas can abstain from voting on legislation as the Speaker, could trivialize any attempt by the Liberals to overthrow the NDP and Greens in a confidence vote.
The BC Liberals say Plecas had promised that he wouldn’t make the move and they are disappointed with his decision.
“Caucus had agreed, and everybody had committed — including Mr. Plecas — to not run for speaker,” says Interim Liberal Leader Rich Coleman. “So, to change your mind and not inform me when you change your mind until after the fact… I still think that’s a betrayal. As a matter of fact, on numerous occasions, he’s reiterated to the caucus and to me he had no intention whatsoever of running for Speaker. I took him at his word.”
“When you tell your colleagues that you are not going to do something, they take you at your word, you break your word, you go do it, become the Speaker, you de facto already joined the NDP.”
Coleman was more subdued when Plecas was acclaimed in Victoria this morning.
“As speaker, you are responsible for ensuring the majority and the minority are equally heard in the chamber, and as speaker, your job is to protect the integrity of the institution and always to act honourably. There will be times when the legislature becomes raucous and the speaker must have the fortitude to make decisions guided in this chamber by things that happened over the last hundred years. Mr. Speaker, we hope you live up to those standards.”
— Dave White (@1130reporter) September 8, 2017
The Liberals had initially issued a statement announcing Plecas has been kicked out of caucus, but they’ve since clarified he’s not representing his riding as an independent. He threatened to quit earlier this year after demanding Christy Clark’s resignation as party leader.
By breaking with tradition, he’s helping the New Democrats hold on to power for the first time since the Liberals replaced them 16 years ago.
Premier John Horgan says he’s delighted Plecas took the challenge to keep members honest, fair, and on course.
“Of course, for the people of BC, this is not about partisanship. This is about a new government and a new opportunity. I fully expect those on the other side of the house to keep us accountable and I fully members on this side of the house to be respectful to the questions asked, and most importantly respectful to you and the office you hold.”
My congratulations to @DarrylPlecas on his new position as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. I know you'll do an excellent job.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) September 8, 2017
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver has issued a statement, congratulating Plecas.
“Darryl’s willingness to stand for Speaker is an encouraging sign that the MLAs of all parties will be able to work together in a productive, collaborative session. We have an historic opportunity to work across party lines to advance good public policy that serves the interests of British Columbians. I look forward to finally getting on with the business of the Legislature to do just that.”
Coleman says despite the Liberals losing Plecas as a voting member, the New Democrats will still have challenges during this legislative session.
“We’ll have a by-election — which I’m pretty confident we’ll win — which will bring the numbers back in to be pretty close. I expected the fall session to go through for its full length… given the resignation of the premier and giving up her seat. So, as far as I’m concerned, nothing has changed other than the fact that an individual who I respected for a long time and known for a long time did not tell me the truth.”
No party was able to win a legislative majority following the May 9 provincial election, which gave the Liberals 43 seats, the New Democrats 41 and the Greens three.
The Liberals lost a confidence vote after the election when the New Democrats and Greens combined their 44 seats to defeat former premier Christy Clark’s government.
Clark’s resignation, both as party leader and as an MLA, gave Horgan additional space to manoeuvre, at least until a byelection is held later this year.
Former Liberal cabinet minister Steve Thomson was the most recent Speaker but resigned less than a week after being elected to the position when the Liberals were ousted in non-confidence motion.