B.C. legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas faced a tough room Wednesday during a speech to civic politicians that ended in heckling after several controversial remarks.
Plecas was giving the opening keynote address to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, which was meant to touch on the importance of effective political leadership and restoring people’s faith in public office.
WATCH: ‘I’m a very candid kind of guy and that gets me in trouble’: Plecas on controversial comments
But audio obtained by Global News through Radio NL showed the speech quickly went off the rails, as Plecas painted a picture of young people losing faith in elected officials over a lack of political leadership.
That, he said, was because of MLAs in the legislature, who he said are “disgracing themselves at every single turn” during the question period he presides over.
“Most people under the age of 30, according to a recent survey by the United Nations, would prefer a dictator over a democracy,” he said. “Why is that? Why is this going on?
“Come to the legislature and watch question period. It’s a no-brainer.”
The United Nations survey Plecas was citing couldn’t be found, but similar studies have found only 30 per cent of Americans born after 1980 think it’s “essential” to live in a democracy.
The Speaker then cast his views outward, speaking about leaders of the Hells Angels and organized crime organizations, including the Mafia.
“Being the leader, or even a so-called successful one, is not necessarily anything to be proud of,” he said. “Hells Angels have good leaders. Organized crime generally has good leaders. The Mafia has good leaders.
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A woman in the crowd can be heard repeating his point back to him incredulously: “Most Americans?”
“I think most,” Plecas responds as the din in the room grows louder. “Well, I think it depends on which survey you are looking at.”
A poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos and released on April 19 found just 37 per cent of Americans approved of Trump’s performance as president.
The most eyebrow-raising moment during Wednesday’s speech came when the Speaker compared disingenuous consultation with Indigenous groups and sexual assault.
“That’s like, if that was OK, you could say to somebody who was sexually assaulted, ‘Look, he consulted first.’ No, it’s stupid.”
Near the end of the hour-long speech, one woman who said she was an elected official can be heard calling out Plecas for his comments.
“I’m sorry, but I’m feeling insulted as an elected official,” the woman said. “I’m feeling like I’m being talked down to here. I have been an elected official for 20 years.”
According to some witness accounts, several other people shot back at the Speaker before he wrapped up his speech, with some even walking out.
Plecas also serves as the MLA for Abbotsford South, a seat he has held since 2013. He was ejected by his former party, the B.C. Liberals, after becoming Speaker in 2017.
His independence has been praised by Premier John Horgan and other MLAs when defending his role as Speaker, but has also been the subject of recall campaigns within his riding.
Organizers of those campaigns argue they voted for a Liberal representative and want a new election.
Plecas’ tenure became national news after he brought forward allegations of overspending and financial mismanagement against clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, the legislature’s top two staffers.
James and Lenz have denied the allegations, but have been suspended with pay pending an RCMP investigation.
The Speaker’s office authored multiple reports detailing several instances of financial misconduct overseen by James and Lenz, which have resulted in other independent reviews of the legislature.
Plecas used Wednesday’s speech to promise more details on the spending scandal next week, saying if people liked those reports, they’ll “love” what’s coming.
At least one civic official, New Westminster councillor Patrick Johnstone, shared that part of the speech on social media.
The city councillor quoted Plecas saying, “The writers of House of Cards must be from B.C.,” and that he promised the spending scandal “is going to get stranger and more exciting before it is over.”
—With files from Richard Zussman