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HomeBusinesstheBreaker.news Podcast: Trouble in the “People’s House”

theBreaker.news Podcast: Trouble in the “People’s House”

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Nov. 20, 2018, 11:06 a.m.

NDP Government House Leader and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth stood in the Legislature, to ask for support to immediately and indefinitely suspend the Legislature’s clerk, Craig James, and sergeant-at-arms, Gary Lenz, while under investigation.

The motion passed unanimously. Farnworth didn’t say, but he met the previous evening with the two other party house leaders and Speaker Darryl Plecas. James and Lenz were escorted from the Legislature; James said he did not know what was alleged. 

The Public Prosecution Service later said the RCMP had been investigating since the summer and, in a rare move, two special prosecutors had been secretly appointed on Oct. 1. The RCMP refused to explain why.

Sources say Plecas called in the Mounties to investigate corruption. James and Lenz’s lawyer say they deserve to be reinstated, because they have done no wrong. 

It may take weeks, months or years for the facts to be known about the latest scandal at the B.C. Legislature, an institution that is inherently secretive. Unlike government ministries and Crown corporations, the Legislature is not covered by freedom of information laws. It is forecast to spend a net $76 million this year, with relatively little oversight.

Since 2012, when the Auditor General condemned the Legislature for financial mismanagement, there have been baby steps toward better financial reporting. But, because it is still excluded from the FOI law, the people who own the “people’s house” have no legal right to know what really goes on.

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, highlights of B.C.’s rich scandal history, from Fantasy Gardens to B.C. Rail, and a review of the week that was. Host Bob Mackin interviews Canada’s top expert on freedom of information, Sean Holman, a former member of the B.C. Press Gallery who is now a journalism professor in Calgary. Holman said he is not surprised that the Legislature is embroiled in controversy.

“Freedom of information laws are important because they improve the democratic manners of public officials,” Holman said. “If public officials know they are being watched, or have the potential for being watched, by the public and their representatives, in the form of activists and reporters, then the potential for wrongdoing decreases… information is the beginning of accountability. If you don’t have information, you can’t have accountability.” 

Plus headlines and commentaries.

For full coverage of Scandal at the B.C. Legislature, listen to this podcast, read what we know and learn more about the Legislative Assembly Management Committee.

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