Opposition MLAs walked out of a committee meeting Wednesday after B.C. legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas and NDP MLAs refused to discuss Plecas’ allegations of financial irregularities and moved on to consider the legislature’s budget for next year.
B.C. Liberal house leader Mary Polak said the actions of the NDP majority and B.C. Green MLA Sonia Furstenau made it clear they were “colluding” with Plecas to refuse her request to identify what parts of the legislature budget may be “tainted” by the investigation into alleged wrongdoing by senior managers.
Plecas questioned financial reports signed off by Auditor General Carol Bellringer, leaving her unable to audit her own work, Polak wrote in a memo to be tabled at the meeting Wednesday. Plecas has called for a “forensic audit” of the books of the B.C. legislature but hasn’t shared his reasons for doing so.
“In order to re-establish public confidence in our legislature, this forensic audit must be undertaken immediately and with great care, and with guidance from the Auditor General,” the memo states. “However, we must bear in mind that the statements from the Speaker call into doubt previous audits conducted by the Auditor General herself, putting her into a most difficult position, as she cannot conduct a forensic audit on her own work.”
Plecas arranged for the suspension of Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz Nov. 20, citing unspecified suspicions about the operation of the legislature’s $70 million operating budget.
Chairing a meeting of the legislature’s finance and audit committee meeting Wednesday, Plecas said MLAs should deal with the budget first, and his suspicions about finance operations can be discussed at a meeting of the full management committee in January.
Polak said Plecas’ allegations reflect on the operations of the legislature, and passing a budget without discussing them does not make sense.
“We can’t go on pretending that the chair of this committee hasn’t made allegations of financial wrongdoing,” Polak said.
After the meeting, NDP house leader Mike Farnworth accused the B.C. Liberals of “derailing the work of the government for their own political gain.
“It’s clear the B.C. Liberals are more interested in attacking the Speaker than allowing the RCMP and special prosecutors to continue their work unimpeded,” Farnworth said.
The NDP and B.C. Green majority voted down a series of B.C. Liberal motions to delay the process, including seeking a briefing from independent prosecutors appointed to examine the situation.