Burnaby-Edmonds NDP MLA Raj Chouhan becomes first B.C. house speaker of South Asian ancestry

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      A five-term member of the B.C. legislature made history this morning.

      Raj Chouhan (Burnaby-Edmonds) was voted by his peers to be the house speaker.

      Chouhan, who immigrated from Punjab in 1975, is the first British Columbian in this position of South Asian ancestry.

      He succeeds Darryl Plecas, who didn't see reelection.

      Chouhan was deputy speaker from 2017 to 2020 and assistant deputy speaker from 2013 to 2017.

      As the speaker, he will chair the Legislative Assembly Management Committee and oversee the assembly's administration.

      Chouhan will preside over debates and enforce the rules of procedure. Through the sergeant-at-arms, Chouhan has supreme authority over the legislative precinct.

      Prior to entering politics, Chouhan worked for the Hospital Employees' Union and was founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers Union.

      He was also part of a group that created the B.C. Organization to Fight Racism.

      In the last fiscal year, the speaker received a $55,300 top-up to his $110,600 salary as an MLA.

      This puts Chouhan's annual compensation on par with B.C. cabinet ministers.

      The premier received a $99,091 top-up, which lifted his compensation to nearly $210,000.

      Deputy ministers, on the other hand, are paid much higher amounts.

      The deputy attorney general, Richard Fyfe, for instance, collected $303,300 last year.

      John Allan, the deputy minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations, and rural development, was paid $310,158 in the last fiscal year.