A former Liberal member of British Columbia’s legislature has been named the new Speaker of the legislature, which gives some breathing room to the New Democrat’s minority government.
As the new Speaker, Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas will preside over the house and referee debates in the province’s 87-seat legislature.
Plecas was escorted to the legislature by house leaders of both the NDP and the Liberals, minutes after the Liberal party released a statement saying it had expelled Plecas from its caucus. The party later reversed its decision in a revised statement.
Interim Liberal Leader Rich Coleman said in the statement that Plecas made it clear to him he would not seek the office of the Speaker.
“We took him at his word and believed that he would stand by his commitment,? Coleman said in the statement.
?We are disappointed in his decision.?
Coleman also said every member of the Legislative Assembly has the right to run for position of speaker.
“And every member has an obligation to conduct themselves in a fashion that honours their position as an elected representative,” Coleman said.
Plecas was the only MLA to put his name forward. His acclamation breaks parliamentary tradition and also ends months of speculation on how Premier John Horgan could manage the government with such a narrow minority, if he had to put up one of his own members as Speaker.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to work with you over the next number of years to make B.C. better,” Horgan told Plecas, addressing the whole legislature.
“This is not about partisanship. This is about a new government and a new opportunity. I fully expect those on the other side of the house to keep us accountable and I fully expect members on this side of the house to be respectful to the questions asked and most importantly respectful to you and the office you hold.”
No party was able to win a legislative majority following the May 9 provincial election, which gave the Liberals 43 seats, the New Democrats 41 and the Greens three.
The Liberals lost a confidence vote after the election when the New Democrats and Greens combined their 44 seats to defeat former premier Christy Clark’s government. Clark later resigned as party leader and MLA. A byelection will be held later this year.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver commended Plecas for taking on the role of Speaker. He described Plecas as a politician of exceptional ethics and high moral standards.
“Darryl’s willingness to stand for Speaker is an encouraging sign that the MLAs of all parties will be able to work together in a productive, collaborative session,” Weaver said in a statement.
“He will undoubtedly serve with dignity and honour as Speaker of this House.”
Background on the new Speaker of the B.C. Legislature
- Plecas was first elected to the B.C. legislature in 2013 as a member of the Liberal party to represent the riding of Abbotsford South. He won handily against longtime Liberal politician John van Dongen, who left the party earlier in the year to join the provincial Conservatives before running as an Independent. Plecas won re-election in 2017.
- While in office, Plecas served as parliamentary secretary for crime reduction and later for seniors health.
- Plecas spent 34 years as a criminology professor at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, where he held the position of RCMP research chair and director for the Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research.
- He repeatedly turned down offers from the NDP to take on the role of Speaker in the wake of the spring election, saying in one media interview it would be “disrespectful” and “dishonourable” to accept the position. “I would be hurting the Liberal party, in other words hurting the wishes of my constituents, and there’s no way that’s going to happen,” he said in June.
- Plecas’s website says he is the grandson of Abbotsford pioneers and has lived in the area with his wife and two sons for the past 37 years.
- He is the recipient of various accolades, including the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Award for Public Safety, an award of excellence from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, a teaching excellence award from the University of the Fraser Valley, the Queen?s Jubilee Medal and the Order of Abbotsford.
With files from The Canadian Press