THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
VICTORIA — A Liberal member of British Columbia's legislature has defied his party and taken on the important job of Speaker, breaking with parliamentary tradition and offering some breathing room to the New Democrat's razor-thin minority government.
Darryl Plecas has been acclaimed as the new Speaker to referee debates in the province's often fractious 87-seat legislature.
Minutes after the Liberal party released a statement on Friday saying it had expelled Plecas from its caucus, he was escorted into the legislature by house leaders of both the NDP and Liberals.
Interim Liberal Leader Rich Coleman said in a statement that Plecas repeatedly promised he would not seek the office of Speaker and the party is disappointed with his decision.
"On several occasions, Mr. Plecas has made clear to me and the B.C. Liberal caucus that he would not seek the office of Speaker," Coleman said. "We took him at his word and believed that he would stand by his commitment."
The acclamation ends months of speculation on how Premier John Horgan would manage a government with such a narrow minority had he followed protocol and offered up a New Democrat member as Speaker.
"I can't tell you how happy I am to work with you over the next number of years to make B.C. better," Horgan told Plecas, addressing the whole legislature.
"This is not about partisanship. This is about a new government and a new opportunity. I fully expect those on the other side of the house to keep us accountable and I fully expect members on this side of the house to be respectful to the questions asked and most importantly respectful to you and the office you hold."
No party was able to win a legislative majority following the May 9 provincial election, which gave the Liberals 43 seats, the New Democrats 41 and the Greens three.
The Liberals lost a confidence vote after the election when the New Democrats and Greens combined their 44 seats to defeat former premier Christy Clark's government.
Clark's resignation, both as party leader and as an MLA, gave Horgan additional space to manoeuvre, at least until a byelection is held later this year.
Former Liberal cabinet minister Steve Thomson was the most recent Speaker but resigned less than a week after being elected to the position when the Liberals were ousted in non-confidence motion.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver commended Plecas for taking on the role of Speaker, describing him as a politician of exceptional ethics and high moral standards.
"Darryl's willingness to stand for Speaker is an encouraging sign that the MLAs of all parties will be able to work together in a productive, collaborative session," Weaver said in a statement.
"He will undoubtedly serve with dignity and honour as Speaker of this House."