Premier denies BC Liberals’ request for a ‘political cease-fire’ over expenses
BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is calling for a political ceasefire in the ongoing fallout from a report released by Speaker Darryl Plecas alleging gross misspending by senior officials.
Wilkinson is calling on all Legislative Assembly expenses to be posted online, an immediate ban on foreign travel unless approved and a thorough review of accounting by B.C.’s Auditor General.
LISTEN: BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson discusses fallout from the Plecas report
“People have to trust the institution of government. When it is in doubt like it is today we have to completely clean house,” Wilkinson said.
“I have always been concerned about foreign travel, so lets get it justified.”
Premier John Horgan says he doesn’t disagree with the principle of working together across party lines but that Wilkinson is pretending the past didn’t happen.
Horgan was referring to comments the Liberal leader made last year when he described Plecas as “rogue” and “out of control.”
WATCH: Morality of the BC Liberals and how Wilkinson will ‘clear the air’ and ‘clean house’
“He said something had to be done about the Speaker. The Speaker was a problem,” Horgan said on Thursday.
“And so today, for the leader of the opposition to say stand with me and defend the indefensible, is not something I’m prepared to do.”
WATCH: Horgan speaks about B.C. legislative spending scandal following release of Plecas report
Horgan says he is pushing for British Columbia’s Auditor General Carol Bellringer to conduct the internal audit. There is no timeline on when that audit will take place.
The audit is designed to look into the allegations raised against clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz in Plecas’ report. The audit could also look at what unfolded under other speakers and other clerks.
WATCH: ‘It’s about gamesmanship. It’s about one-upping’: Horgan responds to Wilkinson’s comments
The report detailed allegations that potentially millions of dollars were misspent and an RCMP investigation is still underway.
“This is the result of years of entitlement in this institution. It’s offensive to me, it’s offensive to British Columbians, and for the leader of the opposition to have been part and parcel of this for a decade and a half, to be part of a party that imposed Mr. James on the legislature and the people of B.C., is not acceptable to me,” Horgan said.
The BC Liberals are also under fire because of allegations made against former speaker Linda Reid. Former Liberal staff member Connor Gibson alleges Reid filed inappropriate expenses.
WATCH: Should assistant deputy speaker Linda Reid step aside?
Reid denies the allegations and Wilkinson says the truth will come out from the audits.
“If there have been an inappropriate or duplicate payments they need to be paid back,” Wilkinson said.
“If there is anything that needs to be clarified about spending it needs to be put out in the public domain.”
WATCH: Premier Horgan on how the B.C. legislature audit will be decided
The BC NDP caucus sent out a release on Thursday asking why senior BC Liberals were meeting regularly with James.
The report details that James took trips for 39 meetings over an 18 month period. Of those, at least 24 were with people associated with the BC Liberal Party.
The clerk of the legislature is supposed to be a non-partisan position and James has not responded directly to any of the allegations in the report.
Listen: Blame being fired in all directions as party leaders speak on legislature expense scandal
The report details three meetings with Christy Clark after she left office, meetings with Mike de Jong and Steve Thomson, a meeting at “Liberal Vancouver Offices” on Jan. 31 2018 and a meeting with lawyers Geoff Plant and Paul Barbeau on June 20. Barbeau is the current BC Liberal President.
“Mr. Plant is a practicing lawyer in Vancouver with a great deal of expertise about the function of government and I understand he was retained by the legislature to provide advise,” Wilkinson said.
“The rest of it I don’t know about.”
WATCH: ‘The goal is to clean house right now’: Wilkinson on role of BC Liberals in spending scandal
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