Skip to main content

Members of the B.C. Liberal Opposition walked out of a meeting where spending for the provincial legislature is being set, after their bid to launch an independent audit into the annual $78-million budget was blocked.

It was Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas who called for a forensic audit last week into legislature spending, promising the public will want to “throw up” when they learn the details. But on Wednesday, Mr. Plecas, backed by the NDP and Greens on the legislative committee that holds the purse strings, said he will wait until January before he will disclose what he describes as years of financial wrongdoing.

Mr. Plecas went to police this past summer, prompting a criminal investigation and the suspension of two top legislature officials. Both the Auditor General of British Columbia and the acting clerk of the House are now refusing to sign off on the financial reports of the legislature, because they do not know what part of the budget the police are investigating.

Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz and Clerk of the House Craig James were escorted by police from the building on Nov. 20 after the members of the legislature voted unanimously to place them on administrative leave because of the criminal investigation. Mr. Lenz and Mr. James have denied any wrongdoing.

The Liberals proposed a financial audit that search for illegal activity including fraud and theft, as well as any potential conflict of interest. Liberal House Leader Mary Polak said the audit can be crafted so that it could be carried out even as a police investigation continues.

The Liberals say Auditor-General Carol Bellringer cannot be asked to conduct the review because she has previously has approved the books for the legislature. “If any criminal activity is uncovered within the Speaker’s office, it should be determined whether or not the Auditor-General of B.C. erred in their approach to their prior audits and why this malfeasance was not previously detected," the Liberal proposal states.

Mr. Plecas, chair of the committee that reviews the legislature’s finances, said he has “nothing to hide," but he maintained that it was urgent that the committee focus on approving the budget documents for the coming year to allow the legislature to continue to function. As for his concerns about spending, he said: “It will be much clearer when I present in January.”

“It’s ridiculous to consider the budget,” Ms. Polak told reporters outside of the committee room. “We proposed an orderly way in which we could have a person brought in from outside [B.C.] and have them conduct the audit.”

Government House Leader Mike Farnworth accused the Liberal Opposition of playing politics. “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.”

The Liberals have made no secret of their disdain for Mr. Plecas, a former Liberal who was expelled from the party and caucus after he took the post as Speaker, a position that the minority NDP government desperately needed filled in order to maintain power.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe