Former Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin will lead a special investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by the B.C. Legislature’s top officials.
Ms. McLachlin, who served as chief justice until 2017, has been asked to conduct a fact-finding review to determine whether Craig James, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, or Gary Lenz, Sergeant-at-Arms, engaged in misconduct. The two men, who were suspended in November, have denied wrongdoing.
There is an RCMP investigation and a forensic audit already under way, based on a report from Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas, who alleges the two men misused tax dollars to indulge in lavish travel and to reap excessive employment benefits. The explosive allegations, featuring a log splitter, truckloads of liquor, $1,000 suits and expensive luggage, have put the institution of the B.C. Legislative Assembly under a cloud.
Ms. McLachlin’s report, due May 3, will allow MLAs to decide whether to reinstate or fire the two top officers of the legislative assembly.
“We have got as good a jurist as you are going to find in this country, we are very pleased she is going to do this work,” Government House Leader Mike Farnworth said in an interview on Wednesday.
With just eight weeks to produce a report, the former justice is expected to rely heavily on the detailed reports provided by Mr. Plecas, and the responses of Mr. James and Mr. Lenz, for background. However, Mr. Farnworth said she would be able to speak with anyone she needs to complete her probe.
“She will be looking at information in the reports, the responses. … And if she has questions, she’ll be able to get answers,” he said.
“We want to make sure that due process and administrative fairness is done before the House takes any further action. Her findings will allow us to do that.”
Ms. McLachlin will have the power to interview anyone she deems appropriate and can review documents in the possession or control of the legislative assembly. She will review the existing reports on the issues raised by Mr. Plecas, and will give Mr. Plecas, Mr. Lenz and Mr. James a chance to respond in person or in writing. Each of the three men can also suggest witnesses to be interviewed.
An RCMP investigation into Mr. Plecas’s allegations began last fall and two special prosecutors have been appointed to manage that process. As well, the Auditor-General, who has subpoena powers and legal access to all receipts, has launched a special inquiry into the affair.