Analysis: New Speaker shifts the balance of power in British Columbia

Photo of Darryl Plecas via
Photo of Darryl Plecas via

Drama sparks in Victoria as Darryl Plecas is sworn in as the new Speaker

By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer


In a dramatic turn of events, BC Liberal caucus member Darryl Plecas accepted an offer to become Speaker on September 8, securing both the strength of the NDP-Green alliance and his own removal from the Liberal Party.

The move came as a surprise to some of the opposition party’s top brass, particularly interim party leader Rich Coleman, who formally revoked Plecas’ membership with the Liberal Party. Plecas received harsh criticism from Coleman, but praise from leaders of the NDP-Green alliance. His popularity in his home riding in Abbotsford remains uncertain.

This is not the first time Plecas has dissented against the Liberals. After the 2017 election, he threatened to resign from the Liberals if Christy Clark didn’t step down, making him one of the few in the party to speak out against party leadership.

He emphasized his willingness to vote his conscience over party in an interview with The Province after his announcement to become Speaker, saying “It was the right thing for me and it was the right thing to do.” He will likely find himself running as an independent in a Liberal stronghold riding next election, which he acknowledged as an acceptable consequence of his surprising actions.

Coleman, however, called the act a “betrayal,” during a press conference, referencing an earlier promise by Plecas (and the rest of the Liberals) to refuse any offer to become Speaker. Plecas was voted out of the Liberal Party in a special meeting the day following the announcement, a rare occurrence for any political party in the province. Coleman also suggested Plecas could face a campaign to remove him from his office as MLA in Abbotsford for going against his voters’ wishes.

The NDP and the Greens both expressed their support for Plecas,  according to a report by the Times Colonist.

Plecas was inaugurated as Speaker on the very day his acceptance was announced. According to Westminster tradition, Plecas acted reluctant to be given the role of Speaker, and was escorted to his new seat by Government and opposition house leaders Mike Farnworth and Mike de Jung, according to a report by Postmedia Network. As Plecas concluded his first speech as Speaker, Coleman and the rest of the Liberal Party refused to stand, applaud, or congratulate him.

Plecas’ ascension to the office of the Speaker marks a turning point in a turbulent political year, giving the NDP-Green alliance a slight majority in the House. Together with Christy Clark’s resignation earlier this year, the seats are now at 41 for the Liberal Party, 41 for the NDP, and three for the Green Party. Because the alliance did not need to give up a seat to provide a Speaker, they now have the ability to pass legislation without needing a tiebreaker vote, effectively giving the alliance a majority government—provided they cooperate.