British Columbia

B.C. premier rejects Liberal calls to dump legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas

The B.C. Liberals are calling for the replacement of Speaker Darryl Plecas, offering up one of their own amid accusations he’s been copying legislature staff hard drives.

Speaker Darryl Plecas accused of copying hard drives in B.C. Legislature

Darryl Plecas was a member of the B.C. Liberal caucus before he became House Speaker. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Premier John Horgan rejected calls from the B.C. Liberals to replace Speaker Darryl Plecas amid accusations he's been copying legislature staff hard drives.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said Thursday afternoon his party was putting forward a Liberal MLA to act as Speaker.

"Last night, I was here in the building, and witnessed Mr. Plecas and [special adviser Alan] Mullen and a third person carrying a computer hard drive into his office from an unknown source," Wilkinson told reporters.

"We are seeing a chaotic, aggressive approach to staff in this building ... the time has come to clear the air and serve the interests of British Columbians."

Wilkinson referenced the recent report into misconduct allegations made against two senior officials at the legislature written by Beverley McLachlin, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, to support his argument for Plecas to be replaced.

"We cannot carry on like this with this star chamber approach to secret investigations being done behind people's backs," he said. 

In her report, McLachlin says Plecas viewed his investigation of the allegations against Lenz and James as a police probe rather than as an administrator.

"He seems to have seen his task as to build a credible criminal-type case against Mr. James and Mr. Lenz, rather than promptly confronting and correcting the administrative practices that he questioned," says her report.

Liberal house leader Mary Polak also accused Plecas of speaking harshly about McLachlin's report at a meeting Wednesday with the house leaders of the three parties in the legislature. She said she took notes at the meeting and recalled Plecas saying the report was "pathetic" and "way down the scale."

Plecas denied the accusations.

"That is absolutely ridiculous," Plecas told reporters. "I described her as an eminent jurist. I said her terms of reference were very narrow. I had wished that it could have been broader."

Horgan said it is not up to the Liberals to determine who sits as Speaker.

"We have a Speaker and it's not the responsibility of the Opposition to say we want a new one," he added.

Installing a Liberal as Speaker would disadvantage the party, which currently holds 42 of 87 seats in the House. The Speaker only votes to break a tie.

The NDP is governing with the support of the three Green party members in the legislature and Plecas was tossed out of the Liberal caucus shortly after taking the job as Speaker in 2017.

Green house leader Sonia Furstenau declined comment on the meeting, saying it was private. She also said she was not aware of Plecas undertaking an investigation that involved observing employees and copying hard drives, calling those "rumours."

Furstenau said the Greens support Plecas as Speaker.

Wilkinson raised the allegations against Plecas in the legislature Thursday morning, accusing the Speaker of "arbitrary and unaccountable actions."

"The Speaker has embarked on new intrusions regarding employees in this house. Some employees seek to insulate or protect themselves from these efforts by the Speaker, while others are leaving or planning to leave," Wilkinson said.

A senior Liberal staffer slept in the party's head office on Wednesday night to make sure none of the party's computers were improperly accessed.

Plecas didn't deny the allegations and told reporters that he's head of security at the legislature and wants to ensure people's data is secure.

"It is simply a case of saying, we need to make sure that we have data secured. We have ongoing investigations. We do not want an instance where we have data not available to investigators. It's that simple," Plecas told reporters.

Later in the day, MLAs from the B.C. Liberal party stood up one-by-one in the House, reading aloud identical letters condemning the Speaker's action, disassociating themselves, claiming contempt of the House. 

Many walked out in protest. 

With files from Tanya Fletcher and The Canadian Press

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