B.C.’s children and youth watchdog is demanding that the Speaker of the legislature retract comments alleging contempt of parliament, as an ugly war of words between the two prominent figures continues to escalate.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond blasted Speaker Linda Reid in a letter, demanding the Liberal MLA in charge of the legislative assembly take back criticisms she levied over the early public release of a report from the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth.
Reid had chastised Turpel-Lafond in the legislature on Tuesday, saying the independent children’s officer had been disrespectful by posting a report on her website several days before it could be tabled in the house for MLAs to read, as is the longstanding practice in the province. She accused Turpel-Lafond of contempt of Parliament.
Turpel-Lafond initially responded by insinuating the Speaker’s office leaked confidential information about the report to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and warning she felt intimidated and bullied. That further escalated Wednesday with a letter in which Turpel-Lafond said the Speaker’s criticisms were unfounded and that Reid lacked the authority to accuse her of contempt.
“I am deeply disturbed by your statements — as an Officer of the Legislature, as a judge [on leave], and as an individual,” wrote Turpel-Lafond. “It is my understanding that it is not the Speaker’s prerogative to determine whether a party is in contempt of the House — rather that only the House can do so. If I am incorrect in that regard I invite you to clarify my understanding for me.”
Turpel-Lafond said nothing in her child watchdog legislation prevents her from publishing a report, not even a legislature policy that she provide two days notice and table her documents publicly in the House before disseminating them publicly.
“In the meanwhile I also respectfully ask that you retract your statements regarding my conduct being egregious, disrespectful and in contempt of Parliament and, if you feel necessary to comment on them at all, to instead describe them in more measured terms that are more reflective of a good faith disagreement rather than language that has the effective of diminishing my reputation as an Officer, as a judge (on leave) and an individual,” Turpel-Lafond wrote.
The report in question slammed the B.C. Liberal government for a planned restructuring and review by retired deputy minister Bob Plecas.