NDP and Green MLAs decided Wednesday to sit tight for now and not intervene in Speaker Darryl Plecas’s plan to detonate his bombshell about mismanagement of the legislature.
Two B.C. Liberal MLAs at a meeting chaired by Plecas urged a committee to prepare for and get the jump on what he has in mind come January. They struck out.
The NDP-Green majority on a management committee’s sub-group voted to stick to more mundane matters and ignore the ticking time bomb that Plecas produced last week.
In an emotional outburst then, he referred to a laundry list of “absolutely serious” concerns about the financial management of the legislature and promised to quit if upcoming revelations don’t outrage the public and make them throw up in revulsion.
Two weeks before that, he arranged for the house to suspend the two senior officers of the legislature because of an ongoing police investigation into matters that Plecas and his friend and special adviser, Alan Mullen, brought to their attention.
The two events — in a minority legislature where a change of Speaker could destabilize the house — left MLAs flummoxed.
Wednesday’s meeting showed the NDP and Greens are going to try to ride it out until January, the time Plecas has set to show his cards.
They rebuffed Liberal efforts to change the agenda and start handling, or bracing for, the Speaker’s revelations. They stressed the importance of the routine job of approving next year’s $83-million budget to run the legislature, even though final sign-off of the audit of last year’s budget has been suspended because of the controversy.
But the Liberals said the budget could potentially be “tainted” by Plecas’s information, and that carrying on amounts to pretending last week’s explosive allegations didn’t happen.
NDP and Green House Leaders Mike Farnworth and Sonia Furstenau referred to Liberal attempts to attack and target the Speaker. They both stressed the importance of doing nothing that would get in the way of the active police investigation.
That is where the Speaker’s planned exposé could easily run off the rails.
Although Plecas has repeatedly insisted he can deliver it without interfering with the police investigation, it’s not clear how. If he has solid evidence of widespread, long-running, outrageous mismanagement, his plan to reveal it is incomprehensible.
He and his special adviser spent several months developing information about clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz that they handed to the police.
Going into detail next month about a legislature management scandal while two special prosecutors are overseeing that police investigation would breach all the standards set for handling such affairs.
Plecas said last week: “I’d better be extraordinarily careful about how I say things. … I do not want any overlap with what’s going on with the police. I am not going to do that whatsoever.”
On Wednesday, he recommitted to spilling the beans. The NDP and Greens will have to determine if the measures they took to quell the Liberals might apply equally to Plecas next month.
Farnworth said: “We are going to continue to respect the work of the police.”
Furstenau said: “We need to recognize that questions are being asked by the RCMP and special prosecutors. The notion of us, as a committee, proceeding along any lines around those kinds of questions at this point seems not entirely responsible. ”
But that’s exactly what the Speaker is planning to do at the January committee meeting, on the basis that his upcoming revelations have nothing to do with the two top officers.
He made one curious remark about what he wants to divulge.
“There was a point made that there was an allegation of fraud,” he said. “Looking at books does not necessarily follow that you’re talking about fraud whatsoever.”
He declined to speak to reporters after the meeting.
The NDP-Green effort to stall the Liberal questions worked Wednesday. They might find themselves using the same defence a month from now, although the Speaker has a lot more authority.
The full legislature management committee is scheduled to meet again next week for more routine business.
The Liberals will try again to focus on Plecas and will likely be shot down again — if the meeting even comes off.