The debacle at the Legislature

Could we please have a slice of humble pie to go along with our entrée of crow?

Speaker Darryl Plecas certainly showed us – and many others in the B.C. media – that we were wrong to be so skeptical about his behaviour and his allegations regarding the conduct of B.C. Legislature Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz. Plecas promised he would provide sickening evidence of rampant wrongdoing at the B.C. Legislature. Last week he did just that, and people all over the province were retching at the excess and flagrant overspending cited in his report.

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According to the report, James and Lenz claimed inappropriate expenses, went on lavish foreign trips during which little work was done, and handed out questionable retirement and pay benefits, including cash payments in lieu of vacation days that amounted to “at a minimum, several hundreds of thousands of dollars.” There’s also the strange matter of the $13,000 wood splitter and trailer purchased for the Legislature that “never arrived” at the Provincial Parliament Buildings and instead was taken to the Clerk’s house. And let’s not forget the $10,000 truckload of missing alcohol.

This smacks of the worst kind of entitlement and, if true, shows contempt for B.C.’s taxpayers.

In their response, James and Lenz said they were “shocked” at having the report released with no opportunity to explain their spending habits. They say they are confident that time will show the allegations are “completely false and untrue.”

This debacle is an important reminder for all of us that it’s risky to rush to judgment. Outraged British Columbians will have to wait until the RCMP complete their investigation and file criminal charges (or not)  and until the Auditor General finishes her forensic audit.

We trust these investigations will reveal whether abuse of taxpayers’ dollars was systemic and included others sworn to protect the public interest, and whether and why a system of checks and balances appears to have failed so spectacularly in this instance.

W.F.

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