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HomeMiscellanyAnalysis: B.C. media elites let down the public when they put down Plecas, Mullen

Analysis: B.C. media elites let down the public when they put down Plecas, Mullen


Bob Mackin

Now we know why the alarm bells went-off for Speaker Darryl Plecas, after the Jan. 21 release of his scathing report on corrupt activity in the B.C. Legislature.  

The spending scandal has not been the finest hour for some of the biggest names who report for some of the biggest media outlets about provincial politics. Outlets that have lost substantial marketshare over the last decade amid the tango of technological change, corporate media consolidation and newsroom cutbacks. 

Gary Lenz (left), ex-speaker Linda Reid and Craig James (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

I have compiled a selection of the goofy groupthink and ludicrous lines that just didn’t age well, beginning the day that Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were unanimously suspended by the Legislature and the RCMP investigation came to light.

[James and Lenz] are two very well-liked and highly-respected people who have been on the scene at the B.C. Legislature for a number of years. 

–Keith Baldrey, Global BC, Nov. 20

James, a friendly fellow who rides his bike to work and who will happily invite you into his office for a chat, claimed to have no idea. 

—Mike Smyth, The Province, Nov. 21

Right now, it appears to be Darryl Plecas and Alan Mullen that are in control of the Legislature, not the MLAs… the morale, I can tell you of a lot of people who served under both [James and Lenz] has suffered as a result of this.”

—Keith Baldrey, CKNW, Nov. 22

Tom Fletcher (Black Press)

Before [Linda] Reid, Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff kept a tight leash on the press gallery and a veil over legislature finances, ruling with an imperial disdain not usually seen in trucking company owners. At least I’d buy a used truck from Barisoff, which is more than I can say for the current occupant of the ornate old speaker’s office, Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas. 

Last year Plecas played a key role in toppling the B.C. Liberals…*

—Tom Fletcher, Black Press, Nov. 25 

[*editor’s note: Plecas was not involved in “toppling the BC Liberals.” He was actually among the toppled. Plecas and 41 other BC Liberal MLAs were outvoted by NDP and Greens in the June 29, 2017 confidence vote on the throne speech. That led to the John Horgan government.] 

James said there is a strict auditing system in place at the building to track public dollars and prevent their theft or misuse. 

“I have established processes in the legislative assembly that are essentially bulletproof,” he said.

Both men seemed very confident of their innocence. And the fact that they would hold a press conference and take questions from reporters also says a lot.* 

—Mike Smyth, The Province, Nov. 27

News 1130’s Bill Good (Capital Direct)

[*editor’s note: Just because someone hires a public relations company and invites cameras and microphones does not automatically mean the subject is candid. Exhibit A, Donald Trump.] 

It’s hard not to lay the blame for the current mess at the hands of the speaker Darryl Plecas.

—Bill Good, News 1130, Nov. 28

Despite how wondrously this matter has been botched by the Speaker’s office, and I mean from the start, the fact remains two men are under RCMP investigation… I don’t see how the two men can return to their jobs (as they are requesting) until the investigation has been completed — as much as I sympathize with them for the suffering it’s undoubtedly caused. 

This will come to a conclusion, hopefully soon. And when it does, my gut tells me there will be some explaining to do. Lots of it. And not by the two men whose activities are being investigated.

—Gary Mason, Globe and Mail, Nov. 28

Postmedia’s Rob Shaw (Twitter)

But Reid, to her credit, never tried to investigate [Craig] James… To prevent another scandal, MLAs will need to pay more attention to who they pick for the position, as well as keep an eye on what the Speaker is doing. 

—Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun, Dec. 3

It seems equally unlikely Plecas will actually, as he promised, explain all his concerns when he reconvenes MLAs in mid-January…

The NDP, now increasingly anxious about how the stability of its government rests on the shaky foundation of the Speaker’s credibility…

—Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun, Dec. 10

While other outlets were madly intent on grilling the whistleblower and his aide, was focused on specious spending and clandestine contracting in what is often called “the people’s house.” It was a scandal waiting to happen because the B.C. Legislature is an anachronism.

James and Lenz never imagined their secrets would be exposed by the speaker (who they seemed to forget was a renowned criminology professor), because they functioned comfortably in a high-paying vacuum where B.C.’s freedom of information laws do not apply and, according to the Plecas report, those that questioned their authority were shown the door.

Now it’s your turn, Premier Horgan, David Eby, Mike Farnworth and Jinny Sims, to amend the FOI laws, bring the Legislature into the 21st century and restore public trust and confidence.

Will you?

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