Opinion

Please Advise! Does a New Speaker Mean It’s Time for an All-out Brawl?

Darryl Plecas entering the legislature as Speaker is like Ryan Kesler returning to Rogers Arena as an Anaheim Duck.

By Steve Burgess 8 Sep 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

There seem to be a lot of people upset at MLA Darryl Plecas for taking the B.C. legislature’s Speaker’s job. Isn’t the position of Speaker of the Legislature supposed to be an honourable position respected by all parties?

Signed,

Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,

There is an old tradition that the newly elected Speaker must be dragged kicking and howling to the Speaker’s chair, making a great pretend show of reluctance. I must say, few have done a better job than new Speaker Plecas. The man really brought the old routine into the media age. Not content with performing his misgivings on the day itself, he extended the show over several months, including media interviews insisting he didn’t want the job and would consider such a move a betrayal of his Abbotsford South constituents. “The notion of us (the Liberals) putting up someone for Speaker under the current circumstances is ridiculous,” Plecas told the Province’s Mike Smyth. “In fact, I would go further to say that it would be an outright manipulation of the democratic process.” Now that’s showmanship. Plecas is just a wig and a few foreign accents away from being the next Meryl Streep. As for BC Liberal leader Rich Coleman, he seems to have opted for a Captain Bligh look. We’ll see how it polls.

The BC Liberals were a little bit upset at Plecas. Coleman’s reaction to the Plecas move resembled Julius Caesar’s reaction to his old pal Brutus. The Liberals appear to think Plecas’ place in parliamentary history will rank alongside that of Guy Fawkes. They came very close to creating their own exciting new variation on the old tradition — in addition to the Speaker’s supposed reluctance to take the chair, why not an entire phalanx of club-wielding opposition MLAs trying to stop him? All-out brawls are growing more rare in the NHL these days, so there’s a gap to be filled in the entertainment market. It works for the Taiwanese legislature. Their YouTube numbers are crazy good.

The atmosphere in the legislature on Friday certainly resembled Rogers Arena the first time Ryan Kesler came back to Vancouver as an Anaheim Duck. “We are disappointed in his decision,” Coleman said in a statement. You think? Coleman did everything but pass a collection plate around the Liberal benches to gather 30 pieces of silver for this new Judas.

“This is not about partisanship,” NDP Premier Horgan told the legislature. Coleman responded by ejecting Plecas from the Liberal caucus, perhaps as a helpful way to avoid any further partisanship.

But it’s understandable. That whole bipartisan “Let’s-all-elect-a-Speaker-together” shtick only works when the selection of a Speaker doesn’t actually mean anything. Once there’s something at stake, the situation displays all of the collegiality of 20 customers and one pallet of bottled water at a Florida Wal-Mart.

Combined with a potential victory in Christy Clark’s Kelowna riding, this development could give the NDP/Green team some genuine legs. An NDP win in Kelowna West would leave the NDP and Liberals tied at 42 seats apiece. An NDP victory there would be roughly equivalent to the Canucks making the playoffs this season — the Liberals have brought back former Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart, who gave up his seat to Premier Clark, as their by-election candidate. But the seat will be vacant for months to come before the by-election is called, which serves the government’s purpose almost as well in the near term.

Now cut loose from his party, Plecas has paid a price to become Speaker. Never underestimate the appeal of a big raised throne and an adorable tri-corner hat. The NDP/Green alliance is not in the clear just yet. But it appears those who predicted an early demise for Premier Horgan spoke too soon.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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