B.C. Liberal MLA Darryl Plecas defies Rich Coleman and becomes speaker of the legislature

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Prior to today, it was widely assumed that Burnaby-Edmonds NDP MLA Raj Chouhan was probably going to become the house speaker.

      Chouhan had served for years as deputy speaker and his promotion would make him the first speaker of South Asian ancestry in any legislature in Canada.

      It would be an historic moment—cementing the NDP's ties with an important constituency.

      But an odd thing happened along the way: Abbotsford South B.C. Liberal MLA Darryl Plecas revealed his intention to become the house speaker.

      And the NDP and B.C. Green MLAs jumped at the prospect, because it could ensure a stable NDP minority government for years to come.

      “Darryl is known by his colleagues in the legislature as a person of exceptional ethics and high moral standards," B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver said in a statement. "He will undoubtedly serve with dignity and honour as speaker of this house."

      Meanwhile once the word came out that Plecas is taking the job, the B.C. Liberals, under interim leader Rich Coleman, reportedly kicked him out of caucus.

      As an MLA, Plecas collects a salary of $105,881.83. As the speaker, he will earn another $52,940.92 each year. And if the government doesn't fall for four years, Plecas will qualify for a full MLA pension. The maximum is 70 percent of the member's average for his or her top three earning years.

      In Plecas's case, that pension could add up to $111,176 per year.

      Prior to being elected in 2013, Plecas was a criminology professor at the University of Fraser Valley. He has two SFU criminology degrees and a PhD from UBC in higher education.

      It's worth noting that the previous Christy Clark–led government held the line on operating grants to B.C.'s postsecondary institutions. This occurred at a time when many in this sector felt it was imperative to increase investments to make the province more economically competitive.

      As things stand now, the B.C. NDP has 41 votes in the legislature, the B.C. Greens have three votes, and the B.C. Liberals have 41 votes with the resignation of Christy Clark and Plecas serving as a speaker who only casts votes to break ties.

      Even if the B.C. Liberals win the by-election in Clark's old constituency of Kelowna West, they'll still only have 42 votes in the house, two shy of what's necessary to match the NDP and Greens.

      The Greens have agreed to support the NDP on confidence and supply votes in the legislature.

      For now, at least, Burnaby-Edmonds NDP MLA won't be making history by becoming the first Canadian legislature speaker of South Asian ancestry.

      In the meantime, Burnaby, which elected four NDP MLAs, only has one member of cabinet: Katrina Chen, the minister of state for childcare.

      If Chouhan is reappointed as deputy speaker, he will be paid $37,058.65 on top of his $105,881.83 MLA salary. The assistant deputy speaker receives the same annual stipend.

      This afternoon, Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon will deliver the speech from the throne, laying out the minority NDP government's priorities in the coming session of the legislature.