B.C.’s Speaker of the house is being defended by his new special adviser as the Opposition Liberals push for an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the ongoing turmoil in the legislature.
The legislature has faced upheaval since Tuesday when members voted unanimously to suspend sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and Clerk Craig James due to an ongoing RCMP investigation related to their administrative duties.
Speaker Darryl Plecas hired his first special adviser — his friend Alan Mullen — in January to look into his concerns about the two officials. In August, his office forwarded information to the Mounties, who are also being assisted by two special prosecutors.
The Speaker’s office has agreed to arrange a meeting of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee on Tuesday afternoon, but Liberal house leader Mary Polak is pushing for the committee to meet as early as 7 a.m. Monday.
Polak released a sworn affidavit this week that said Plecas proposed installing Mullen as the acting sergeant-at-arms, which she described as “inappropriate.”
Plecas appointed Wally Oppal, a former B.C. Liberal MLA and attorney general, to be his second special adviser on Thursday, and Oppal says the Speaker obtained “significant” legal advice before taking any of his actions in this case.
“I’m not going to get involved in the political aspects … but I can tell you that he acted in good faith and I’m there now to assist him,” Oppal said Saturday.
“The Speaker of the House really is in a quasi-judicial position in that he rules on things in the legislature. He attempted to explain that to the media last week because he wanted the public to be clarified as to what was happening.”
Oppal added that the Speaker shouldn’t be in a position where he’s briefing the media and Oppal is now speaking on his behalf instead.
Plecas is a former Liberal member of the legislature who was ejected from the party after he accepted an offer to become Speaker under the NDP and Greens’ power-sharing agreement. The Speaker does not cast a vote on bills, so his decision ensured the two ruling parties had 44 votes and the Liberals had 42.
In the event of a tie, the Speaker casts a vote to break it.
NDP house leader Mike Farnworth and Green house leader Sonia Furstenau did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Liberals’ push for an emergency meeting.
The Legislative Assembly Management Committee is an all-party committee chaired by the Speaker and made up of Polak, Farnworth, Furstenau, and a few other top legislature members. Its role is to develop policies for the administration and financial management of the legislative assembly.
On Friday, a lawyer for Lenz and James released a letter calling on the legislature to urgently rescind the motion to place the two men on administrative leave. Attorney Mark Andrews said the men deny any wrongdoing and do not know why they have been placed on leave.
The Canadian Press