After being defended for her expense claims made to the B.C. legislature, veteran Richmond South Centre MLA Linda Reid is expected to give up her current role as assistant deputy speaker next week.
Reid, first elected in 1991 and now B.C.’s longest-serving current MLA, was speaker from 2013 to 2017, a role with sweeping authority over legislature operations. She was named by current Speaker Darryl Plecas in his report on alleged improprieties released in January.
A spokesperson for the B.C. Liberal caucus said that while allegations against her have been shown to be false, Reid is concerned that her continuing to preside over chamber proceedings may only add to the lack of trust swirling around the legislature.
The spring session begins Feb. 12 with Premier John Horgan’s throne speech, setting out the minority government agenda for the coming year.
Plecas cited an unnamed former legislature staff member he described as a “whistleblower,” who claimed he was fired after questioning Reid’s expense claims for mileage and taxi fares for the same trip.
“This is not true,” Clerk of the House Craig James wrote in his formal response to Plecas’ report, which was leaked to The Vancouver Sun this week.
The response is now in the hands of a committee of MLAs who must decide if James and Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz should remain on paid suspension while police investigate Plecas’s allegations. Lenz, a former RCMP officer who checked the expense claims, made his own submission to refute the suggestion that he obstructed the investigation to cover for Reid.
Reid’s expenses were for a taxi to the Helijet terminal in Vancouver and vehicle mileage after she arrived in Victoria, Lenz wrote, describing a simple check of receipts on file. “I have never been asked to stop any investigation that I conducted at the legislature,” wrote Lenz, who is a “special provincial constable” in charge of security.
Reid and Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan are deputies of Plecas, presiding over committee debates and relieving Plecas as speaker in an increasingly bitter legislature. James’s description of Plecas’s conduct can only add to that.
“The Speaker and I did have a difference of views as to how to best handle rancorous matters in the house, the Speaker on more than one occasion saying to me that he did not wish to follow my advice regarding disciplining a [cabinet] minister or government private member because ‘he did not want to upset the NDP,’” James wrote.
“In addition to our discussion regarding the operation and management of the Legislative Assembly, a frequent topic of conversation with the new Speaker was the potential for ‘recall’ proceedings.”
Plecas is facing a recall campaign in Abbotsford South. He was kicked out of the B.C. Liberal Party after he reversed his promise to refuse the job of speaker, which gave the minority NDP a crucial extra vote after the 2017 election left a minority parliament supported by three B.C. Green MLAs.