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Premier having none of BC Liberal leader's call for pair to stand together

Last Updated Jan 24, 2019 at 8:40 pm PDT

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Following the Speaker’s bombshell report outlining allegations of lavish spending of public dollars at the BC Legislature, the Liberal leader is calling for an overhaul.

Andrew Wilkinson says he and the premier need to work together to ensure process and expenses are properly handled and spent. “In order to clear the air, we need to clean house in this institution. To do that, I’m asking Premier Horgan to join with me,” Wilkinson said Thursday.

But Premier John Horgan doesn’t appear very receptive of Wilkinson’s suggestion of working together.

Horgan says Wilkinson’s request to work together now, after smearing the work that led to this week’s release of a report alleging excessive spending is not genuine.

“It’s about gamesmanship. It’s about one-upping. Had the leader of the Opposition adopted the position that the government did — and at the time, the Green caucus — about allowing this to run its course, we wouldn’t have had outrageous allegations made against Mr. Plecas.”

Horgan says the Liberals were at the helm of the Speaker’s chair for much of this scandal and only the current independents and Speaker Darryl Plecas allowed for light to be shone on the misuse of public funds.

For his part, Wilkinson says he sees three key changes needed: Public posting of all legislate staff expenses, having the Auditor General conduct a review, and banning international travel for legislature staff without prior approval.

“People have to trust the institutions of government. And when it’s in doubt, we need to completely clean house,” he said.

But he sidestepped, when asked if that includes cleaning the Liberals’ house — like MLA Linda Reid, who is named in the Speaker’s spending report.

“I think that everyone involved in this, no matter how they’re being alleged to be involved, needs to be completely forthright with the Auditor General so that we can clarify all these issues.”

Wilkinson down-played improprieties, saying if there are overpayments for parking they will have to be dealt with.

“If there are overpayments for parking then that will have to be dealt with, but there are much more significant issues than parking charges here in terms of the conduct of this institution and how it’s been spending the public’s money,” he added.

Who should conduct an audit?

The Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) has talked about having an Auditor General from outside the province conduct an audit. But Wilkinson wants B.C.’s Auditor General Carol Bellringer to take the lead on the matter and direct on what should be done by an outside body.

Horgan also said he thinks Bellringer is capable and well-suited for the job. However, he noted it is LAMC’s decision — not that of the government.

On Monday, a 76-page report by Speaker Darryl Plecas was unveiled, detailing luxurious trips, payouts, and personal purchases that totalled millions of dollars.

The release of the findings came about two months since Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were walked out of the Legislature and suspended amid a criminal investigation.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing. No charges have been laid.

Plecas has been criticized for mystery surrounding the suspensions, as well as the investigations James and Lenz appear to be caught up in.