Clerk of the House Craig James (left) accompanies Speaker Darryl Plecas to the B.C. legislature chamber after Plecas’s surprise election to the position, September, 2017. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press/pool)

BREAKING: Plecas won’t run in next election if legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Speaker Darryl Plecas says he won’t run again for his Abbotsford seat if workplace and oversight reforms for the B.C. legislature pass before the next election.

Plecas told The News Friday afternoon that he thinks the bulk of the work to increase accountability and improve the working environment at the legislature can take place within the next year. Doing so would leave the legislature in “a place fundamentally different than in the past,” he said.

“When that happens, that’s mission accomplished.”

If that takes place, Plecas said he won’t run again for his seat in the Abbotsford South riding, saying he is not suited to politics.

“I never wanted to do it. And having been through the experience, it’s not a world that I feel comfortable in. I don’t feel comfortable not being able to say what I think. I don’t feel comfortable not having an opportunity to make changes where I think changes ought to be. I’m not comfortable in a world where there’s not enough attention given to evidence-based decision-making … And I know it sounds a bit odd, but I’m not into conflict.”

But if the changes don’t happen, he said, “I don’t quit until it does.”

Plecas said that he entered politics reluctantly in order to try to get a better home for the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre, on whose board he had sat and who currently operate out of a “makeshift” facility.

RELATED: Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

Plecas is in his second term as an MLA, having been elected in 2013 and 2017 as a BC Liberal. He has been sitting as an independent since being booted from the BC Liberals when he accepted an offer from the NDP to take the role of Speaker in the legislature.

A Langley man has expressed a desire to recall Plecas, alleging he betrayed his constituents by leaving the BC Liberals. That would require 40 per cent of eligible voters signing a recall petition.

Plecas says he isn’t worried about the recall petition, and added that he hopes it will spark debate. For the recall to succeed, thousands more must sign the petition to recall Plecas than voted for him in 2017.

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Plecas has chafed at the restrictions of politics, and was frequently taken to task for straying from the party line as a BC Liberal.

He said Friday that while he was a BC Liberal, he was admonished for praising a report by former children’s advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who regularly blasted the government for failing to live up to its obligations to the province’s children.

Plecas said he expects to table a report next week that will answer questions posed by the response of ousted clerk of the legislature Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, who have been accused of misspending thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in their roles as the two top officials at the legislature.

Plecas said the report will be accompanied by a large amount of documentation.

RELATED: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

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A second report would detail workplace issues in the legislature.

Last November, James and Lenz were escorted away from the legislature and suspended from their jobs. The move, and a lack of accompanying information, triggered a wave of criticism of Plecas.

Opinion turned sharply last month, when he issued his detailed report on spending in the legislature. That early condemnation of Plecas, though, echoed the bombardment leveled against him a year earlier, when he decided to take the role of Speaker over the objections of the BC Liberals.

The move ensured that the NDP, with the support of the Greens and one fewer BC Liberal sitting in opposition, would have some stability in a finely balanced legislature. Since taking the speakership, Plecas has said he left, in part, because the BC Liberals often didn’t place the public interest above party politics.

RELATED: Christy Clark told MLAs to fire non-partisan constituency workers, Plecas says

Over the last week, similar scenes have played out on the federal level, with former cabinet minister Judy Wilson-Raybould resigning her post following a story that said she had been pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office to help a large Quebec engineering firm escape criminal prosecution.

Asked if the affair reminds him of his own situation, Plecas said: ‘That’s an interesting question, isn’t it?”

After a long pause, he continued:

“It’s always an incredibly complicated situation when you’re trying to do the right thing.

“It’s just … There’s so many factors at play and when you’re caught up in a situation where you’re restricted by the requirements of party, it really makes it complicated. Let’s just say I have great sympathy for her situation.”


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tolsen@abbynews.com

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