Editor's column: Legislature expense scandal sucks in Richmond MLA

Wow, that’s some sordid reading. I could imagine Netflix lining up to secure the rights for a House of Cards kind of political drama.

I’m talking, of course, about Darryl Plecas’ bombshell report that explains why he, as Speaker of the House, had the B.C. Legislatures’ clerk, Craig James, and Sergeant-at-Arms, Gary Lenz, frog-marched off the grounds of the provincial parliament on Nov. 20.

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At the time, he pointed to a RCMP investigation, but many felt he had over-stepped his bounds, particularly given no one else seemed to know what was going on — including James and Lenz.

The whole ordeal had the legislature reeling because while “clerk” might not sound like the most prestigious job title, when it comes to the legislative bureaucracy, it’s about as high as you can get. It’s basically the CEO of parliament. Meanwhile, the Sergeant-at-Arms is head of security — again, no slouch job.

So now the report is out and, as Plecas predicted, it’s having folks choking on their lunch — actually he said “throw up.” Regardless, the alleged accounts of lavish spending of taxpayers’ money and complete disregard for protocol are indeed nauseating. We’re talking cabinets full of high-end scotch paid for by us and “business trip” where almost no business is done.

The local angle is, of course, our own Linda Reid, MLA for Richmond South. Reid was the Speaker of the House from 2013-2017 and is currently Deputy Speaker. This begs the question, if Plecas was able to uncover all this alleged wrong-doing, then why didn’t Reid?

Moreover, the report singles out a mysterious MLA whose expenses were red-flagged by a legislative assistant. But, according to the report, James shut down further inquiry,   saying “we will all wear it” if she was to be investigated. 

The MLA is not named in the report, but appears to be Reid. (See page 7)

When asked, Reid said she was never made aware of problems with her expenses and she has no idea why James made that comment. Nevertheless, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is calling for Reid’s resignation as Assistant Deputy Speaker.

And here’s the crazy thing, we’re talking about a $6 cab fare while also claiming mileage, or claiming a meal per diem for a meeting where food was provided — improper yes, but hardly the stuff to bring down a government. Besides, there may be a valid explanation, but the issue for Reid is that since no investigation was held, she had no opportunity to explain herself.

The bigger concern in all this is the opaque relationship between the Speaker and the Clerk, as Plecas outlines. It’s still unclear to me who the Clerk answers to. Reid seemed to say it wasn’t her. She also agreed there is too little oversight of the clerk’s office.

Clearly, this is just the beginning of a complex investigation. The good news is that an investigation is happening.


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