B.C. Premier David Eby said Monday he had “no choice” but to remove Vancouver Island MLA Adam Walker from the NDP government caucus following an internal investigation stemming from a complaint from an employee this summer.
The Parksville-Qualicum NDP MLA will continue to sit as an independent, said Eby.
“This is not a happy day for us — it was a very difficult call to make to Mr. Walker,” Eby said at a news conference in Richmond where he was set to talk about housing. “But I can assure residents that we followed a process and while difficult, this was a necessary decision.”
Eby said the complaint about Walker came from an employee in late July. The complaint was made through human resources and was followed by a formal process under the government’s collective agreement with the B.C. General Employees’ Union.
MLAs are employers for their constituency office staff who are BCGEU members. A “thorough investigation” found misconduct by the MLA, said Eby. “As with any other human resources issue, we are not able to disclose additional details.”
Eby called it a “serious and concerning” matter; he said that it did not involve a criminal investigation or criminal conduct such as sexual harassment.
“I made the determination that Mr. Walker could not continue in our caucus,” said Eby, calling it “an incredibly challenging” situation.
“It’s a difficult situation for me as leader, it’s challenging for our caucus and most importantly, I think for the people of Parksville-Qualicum, who elected an NDP MLA, a very significant and important decision.”
Eby said it was determined the matter could not be remediated through training.
Walker will no longer serve as parliamentary secretary of sustainable economy, the premier said.
Walker told the Times Colonist Monday he got a call from the premier on Sunday afternoon “in the middle of a beautiful weekend and I just really wasn’t expecting it at all.”
He said he doesn’t know what information was presented to the premier. “I’m sure he felt at the time he was making the right decision.”
Walker issued a statement saying he looks forward “to an opportunity to address any allegations in the appropriate forum.” That process would be arbitration, he said, adding he hopes his name will be cleared.
Walker, who attended Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings Monday, said he’s been overwhelmed by calls of support, “literally hundreds of phone calls, texts, every type of communication.”
The MLA, who with his wife has two daughters and runs a farm, said it’s hard when there’s speculation, since it affects not just his own reputation but his family’s.
At the same time, Walker said, privacy is integral to the process so employees never feel afraid to bring forward a complaint for fear of ending up in the media.
The MLA billed taxpayers about $1,800 earlier this year for legal fees, according to expense reports. Walker’s fourth-quarter expense report includes two heavily redacted invoices from Fulton and Company LLP in Kamloops, regarding an “employment matter.”
The first, on Jan. 30, for $1,141.04, mentions telephone calls and emails with Walker about reviewing “multiple discipline and grievance and medical documents,” the medical leave for someone whose name was redacted and for reviewing a completed short-term illness and injury plan form.
The second invoice, on Feb. 24, totalled $665.20, and mentions reviewing more emails and attached documents about a BCGEU review, grievance and possible staff layoffs. BCGEU represents workers in the NDP caucus and at NDP-run constituency offices.
The Fulton and Company invoice referred to an email to Walker “regarding investigation and implementation of workplace impairment policy.”
The legislative assembly has a legal indemnification policy that allows employees to apply confidentially for up to $5,000 “to enable the employee to obtain legal counsel in respect of a legal proceeding. An employee may make a subsequent application for an increase if the need arises.”
An employee is ineligible and must return all amounts paid if a judgment or decision is given against an employee in a legal proceeding or if a decision is made against the employee by the legislative assembly with the benefit of information that may become available to it.
Walker had previously served as a town councillor for Qualicum Beach from 2018 to 2020.
His grandfather, Robert Walker, served for 19 years as an MLA in Saskatchewan working with Tommy Douglas, known as the father of universal health care.
Walker was elected as a B.C. NDP MLA in the 2020 general election, defeating then Parksville-Qualicum B.C. Liberal incumbent Michelle Stilwell, flipping the riding to the New Democrats for the first time since 1996.
He previously oversaw the development of a strategy to address the challenges of gig workers in B.C., including food-delivery drivers, that in 2022 led to a 20 per cent cap on food-delivery fees for restaurants.
The party standings in the B.C. legislature are now: NDP 56 seats, BC United 26, Green Party 2, Conservatives 2, Independent 1.
The move comes less than a week after Abbotsford South’s Bruce Banman, who was also elected in 2020, quit the BC United caucus to join the Conservative Party of B.C. under leader John Rustad.
— With files from Bob Mackin, Glacier Media