British Columbia Liberal MLA and former Speaker of the House Linda Reid should resign from her current position as the assistant deputy speaker in the legislature, says BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.
“I do not ask for this lightly,” Weaver said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “In light of the numerous and serious allegations of the Speaker’s report, as well as the candour of [a] key whistleblower, I feel strongly that it is inappropriate for MLA Reid to continue to serve as assistant deputy speaker until such a time that these allegations can be fully addressed.”
Reid has been unavailable to respond to questions since Speaker Darryl Plecas released his report Monday that detailed allegations of questionable expenses and behaviour by suspended Clerk Craig James and suspended Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.
In a statement released through the BC Liberal caucus, Reid said she welcomed the audit and would make herself fully available to the auditors. She did not respond to a Tyee request for comment on the call to resign from her role.
In his report, Plecas described a letter from a Liberal staff member in the legislature raising questions about an MLA’s expenses. Concerns regarded the MLA claiming mileage for trips that had been taken by taxi and per diem payments for food on days where meeting hosts provided meals.
The report didn’t name the MLA or the staffer, but Global News reported Tuesday that the MLA was Reid and the staff person was Connor Gibson who was not kept on after the legislative sitting that stopped in May 2018.
“This whistleblower was allegedly dismissed for questioning the expense claims of BC Liberal MLA and Assistant Deputy Speaker of the House Linda Reid,” Weaver said. “Our focus at this time must be on restoring public trust in our democratic institutions. I cannot see how that is possible when one of the individuals named by this whistleblower is still holding a position of power and oversight in the Legislature.”
In her statement, Reid was silent on whether or not she would resign her position.
“I am encouraged to see the Legislative Assembly Management Committee unanimously approve a comprehensive financial audit of the issues raised in the report from the Speaker,” she said, noting that the Liberal caucus had been calling for such a review.
“As the auditor conducts their investigation, I will make myself fully available,” she said. “I will work with the auditor and any other investigators to ensure the protection of taxpayer dollars. I feel it’s important to respect the process of the current investigations in order to ensure the public is provided with a full account of the entire situation.”
In an interview Tuesday, NDP MLA Garry Begg, who sits on the Legislative Assembly Management Committee said Plecas’s report speaks to a “systemic cultural failure” that has gone on for many years at the legislature. That includes the period from 2013-2017 when Reid, who has been an MLA since 1991, was speaker.
“It’s fair to make the observation that the speakers before this were Liberals and they apparently didn’t twig to any of this,” Begg said. “The bulk of this appears to have happened under their watch, so to speak.”
On Wednesday the NDP caucus released a statement criticizing Reid, but stopping short of calling for her resignation.
“In January 2014, an internal report warned Reid that Craig James received a massive $257,000 payment to which he may not have been entitled,” it said, citing the Plecas report. “Instead of taking action, it appears Reid did nothing — and the report mysteriously disappeared from the Speaker’s vault during her tenure.”
BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, who in December said Plecas appeared to be out of control, has been unavailable to media this week.
In November, members of the legislative assembly voted unanimously to suspend James, the top staff person in the $80-million-a-year legislature, and Lenz, the head of security. The RCMP confirmed at the time that it was investigating and two special prosecutors were appointed to oversee the investigation.