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NDP Seeking Answers From BC Liberals Including Former Speaker Linda Reid On Legislature Clerk Scandal And Double Dipping On Expense Claims

VICTORIA – NDP is going after the BC Liberals on the bombshell allegations of illicit payouts and lavish spending of taxpayers’ dollars detailed in Speaker Darryl Plecas report including double dipping by BC Liberal MLA Linda Reid, a former Speaker of the House.

This week Connor Gibson, the former BC Liberal caucus employee, blew the whistle on BC Liberal MLA Linda Reid, who may have been double-dipping on expense claims.

Gibson says that when he brought his concerns to Reid as well as senior BC Liberal caucus staff, they instructed him to process the claims anyways. Gibson then took his concerns directly to the Speaker’s office.

But Reid’s involvement extends beyond her own expenses. She presided as Speaker over the Legislature from 2013 to 2017, a time in which many of the alleged incidents of inappropriate spending took place.

In January 2014, an internal report warned Reid that Craig James received a massive $257,000 payment to which he may not have been entitled. (Plecas Report, pages 44-48)

Instead of taking action, it appears Reid did nothing – and the report mysteriously disappeared from the Speaker’s vault during her tenure.

Neither Linda Reid or Andrew Wilkinson has been available to media to answer questions on their party’s direct connections to the spending scandal.

“It’s disturbing that Linda Reid kept silent even though she knew the Clerk may have collected over a quarter million dollars improperly. We see evidence of inappropriate spending going back years under BC Liberal speakers, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. British Columbians deserve answers from the BC Liberals about exactly what they knew and why they didn’t act, ” NDP MLA Gary Begg said on the record.

Reid, MLA for Richmond South Centre, has released statement following the allegations that said: “I am encouraged to see the Legislative Assembly Management Committee unanimously approve a comprehensive financial audit of the issues raised in the report from the Speaker. The BC Liberal Caucus has been calling for this action for months, and it is critical for the public’s confidence in their Legislature that we receive an accurate and independent review of spending.

“As the auditor conducts their investigation, I will make myself fully available. I will work with the auditor and any other investigators to ensure the protection of taxpayer dollars. I feel it’s important to respect the process of the current investigations in order to ensure the public is provided with a full account of the entire situation.”

The public wouldn’t have had to wait years to know about the allegedly audacious spending habits of two top legislature officials if the B.C. legislature was subject to the same transparency rules as most of the rest of government, advocates say.

The activities – and expenses – of the Craig James and Gary Lenz aren’t subject to Freedom of Information rules, which means they don’t have to regularly account to the public about the details of what they’re spending taxpayer money on.

“If there was an ability to do an FOI I’m sure this would have come out sooner,” said Sara Neurt, the executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

Watchdog IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis says extending the disclosure rules to the legislature would mean officials would watch what they spend.

“When you know your expenses could be posted online, by receipt, suddenly you’re going to be more prudent,” Travis said.

 

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