The B.C. legislative session will kick off Tuesday afternoon under a blanket of snow and a cloud of uncertainty.
MLAs from across the province struggled to get to Victoria after a record-breaking snowfall in the capital region on Monday going into Tuesday morning.
Flights were cancelled into Victoria and MLAs scrambled to make alternative arrangements to get to the legislature. Premier John Horgan, who has a much shorter commute from his home in Langford, laughed off the weather.
“For all of the rest of you in British Columbians I apologize for our faint hearts when it comes to snow,” Horgan joked on his way to the legislative chamber.
The uncertainty of the session comes as MLAs all gather together for the first time since the Plecas Report was released in January.
One of the initial fallouts from the report will be a change in the assistant deputy speaker ranks. The B.C. Liberals are expected to put forward MLA Joan Isaacs’ name for the role, replacing Linda Reid.
LISTEN: MLAs are doing their best to return to the house today for a throne speech that sets the political agenda for the coming months. Richard Zussman reports.
Accusations were made in the report that Reid cheated on her expenses. The allegations have not been proven and Reid denies all wrongdoing. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has also weighed in, calling them “flatly untrue.”
Plecas has also alleged that MLAs have broken the law and Wilkinson says he has seen no proof of that.
“I think we are getting a little tired of this cat-and-mouse game where Darryl Plecas says, ‘I know something you don’t know’ and won’t tell the public when they are the ones entitled to know and apparently he is hiding things from the legislature,” Wilkinson said.
Speaking on the Jon McComb show on CKNW Tuesday morning, Horgan said:
“Certainly the Speaker has done an investigation of the clerk and the sergeant-at-arms and has passed that information on to the RCMP. As far as I’m aware, and I’ve made inquiries, there is no investigation of any MLAs at this time.”
“That’s not to say there won’t be in the future. I can’t predict that. But Mr. Plecas has made some serious allegations and we’ll just wait to see if they follow up with investigations as a result of those.”
The Speaker’s chief of staff, Alan Mullen, has also stated publicly that people are going to jail. The RCMP are currently investigating the conduct of clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, but no charges have yet been laid in those cases.
James and Lenz have denied any wrongdoing.
“Mr. Mullen is new to the legislature — recently arrived — and those allegations he’ll have to be accountable for,” Horgan said. “He doesn’t lay charges, he doesn’t prosecute cases, the RCMP do and the attorney general’s ministry does. So I’ll leave it up to those professionals to manage these issues going forward.”
As for the contents of Tuesday’s throne speech, the B.C. government is going to remained focused on affordability issues, putting in place next steps for the green plan and addressing concerns at BC Hydro and ICBC.
“We’re excited about our victory in the Nanaimo byelection,” Horgan said. “There is renewed enthusiasm within the group to carry on with an agenda working for people on things they care about — health care, child care, education, housing.”
The NDP will follow up the throne speech with the provincial budget on February 19.
The B.C. Liberals are questioning the government’s affordability agenda. Wilkinson says the Employers Health Tax has hurt businesses and ICBC rates continue to climb.
“ICBC rates are going up dramatically and I have heard cases of five-fold increases. So it sounds like affordability is falling by the wayside,” Wilkinson said.
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