My plan was to write this column after hearing the Speaker of the Legislature, Daryl Plecas explain himself about the thoroughly public expelling of the Clerk of the Legislature Craig James and Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz. This happened 60 days earlier, on November 20, 2018, but despite the public demand for an explanation of the unusual event, Plecas remained tightlipped and for additional safety he hired Judge and Attorney General Wally Oppal to “advise him” how to do whatever he had started and which was turning ugly. Today, January 21, Plecas will explain himself. The Legislative Assembly Management Committee, “LAMC”, whom Plecas will address, shut its doors, leaving us incommunicado, claiming the right to decide themselves whether the Plecas stuff is fit for public consumption. The wait for the verdict feels longer that it may be because the case is intriguing and the publicity has been unusually teasing.
While in the lineup outside the doors of the LAMC, metaphorically speaking, I am trying to imagine what is transpiring inside and this requires consideration of the demeanor of the LAMC. I know of no one of its current members but my wondering mind went in reverse gear to another scandal the august LAMC digested in 2011. Then, they dealt with the newly retired Clerk of the Legislature George MacMinn, predecessor and mentor to Craig James. The story is fantastic – MacMinn wiggling his way out of that mess unscathed is remarkable. Our failure to deal meaningfully with MacMinn cannot but have been part of the inducement to what Plecas alleges James and Lentz did. You see, organizations develop their own traditions and make them the muscle of their “corporate philosophy” and decree their manner.
MacMinn retired in 2011, with a pension guaranteeing Champagne with each breakfast lunch and dinner for the rest of his life. No sooner was he out the door than someone in the government signed a two–year contract with MacMinn to advise his successor, Craig James, if ever the need would arise for James to tap the wisdom of MacMinn. This contract was worth a cool half $Million over the two years. When news of the obscene sinecure leaked out, MacMinn proved his dexterity, thereby “justifying” his retention and remuneration. With a straight face MacMinn told the populace, that he was a generous man and that he would bequeath the loot from that contract to the Government, for the benefit of the whole of BC. This nonsense did the trick, it saved the super-lucrative contract for him and we never heard again from MacMinn. At least I haven’t ... have you?
While waiting for the Plecas news and tapping out these lines I was tuned to CBC and as fate would have it Shelagh Rogers came on with an interview with former GG David Johnston. He has a book out, “Trust: 20 Ways to Build a Better Country”. It may be worth as much as the “Big Maple Leaf” the massive gold Loonie thieves heisted from the Berlin coin museum. Johnston seeks to restore Canadians’ faith in our institutions, including the government and the justice system. I intend to read the book, for I share his concerns. The book felt like a breath of fresh air, as I was waiting, “barf bag” ready on my desk, lest Plecas make me “throw up”.
In democracies respect for individuals and institutions has to be earned. It is in regimes other than free that respect is commanded and withholding it causes serious problems for citizens. If the institutions invite disrespect, we, the people, must give it to them, for otherwise the causes of disrespect proliferate in all directions choking decency.
The wait ended and the LAMC graciously decided to let us see that which Plecas alleges those whom he expelled from the House have done. As it turned out Plecas accuses the “persons in high places” he threw onto the street, of been crooks. It looks like the courts may agree, because the courtroom would be crowded with people anxious to ensure that the purpose for which free societies keep the courtroom doors open, is served.
By the time this will be print, we will be soaked with “evidence” and me repeating what Plecas says will be redundant. Yet there is a message to convey, and looking at what I wrote while awaiting the news, I deem it worth consideration. In a democracy, quis custodes ipsos custodes (who is to watch the watchdogs), is us, the populace. It is our turn to shout at “them” that we have had enough of that and to take seriously our duty to hold them accountable. Meaningfully accountable.