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B.C. Speaker apologizes for speech that said Hells Angels, Mafia 'successful'

'It went so sideways,' Plecas says



The Speaker of British Columbia's legislature is apologizing for offending some people with a speech he gave about leadership qualities that he says went "sideways."

Darryl Plecas said Friday the point he tried to make to about 160 local government politicians on Wednesday was that even though crime bosses and some politicians are considered successful leaders, they don't pass the leadership test.

Plecas said when he mentioned the Hells Angels, Mafia and U.S. President Donald Trump as examples of leaders considered successful, some people attending the Lower Mainland Local Government Association gathering objected to his comments because they thought he was endorsing those leaders.

"It went so sideways," Plecas said in an interview in his office at the B.C. legislature. "I guess some people in the audience, one person anyway, took offence, but I apologized for that. I was surprised, of course, when it was taken the way it was."

Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton, the government association president, said Plecas' speech was a topic of conversation this week at the association's annual convention at Harrison Hot Springs.

Crompton said Plecas chose to apologize following his speech, but the organization is not commenting beyond acknowledging the apology.

"Our organization is a big tent and we want to hear a lot of voices," Crompton said.

Plecas said during the interview that Trump is considered a successful leader by many because he was elected president and brought the Republicans back to power, but leadership goes beyond achieving and holding power.

"Does that make you a good leader?" he asked. "I would say that doesn't go far enough. You have to say, 'Yes, I accomplished my goal. I was successful and along the way I never hurt anyone.'"

An audio recording of Wednesday's speech obtained by CHNL Radio of Kamloops includes Plecas saying, "I personally despise Trump."

He said he told the audience successful leaders accomplish goals while being inclusive, collaborative, open and transparent, and above all, "unbelievably ethical."

Plecas said he criticized politicians during his speech for not meaningfully consulting with Indigenous people about decisions, comparing the approach to someone who was sexually assaulted being told they were consulted first.

But he said in the interview what he meant was that unless consultations involve genuine input, some Indigenous people say governments use the term "consult" as if consent were given.

Plecas said the comparison came directly from an Indigenous woman who made the same point to him.

"She said to me, if we were to agree consultation was good enough, somebody could sexually assault me and say, 'Gee, that's OK. I consulted first,'" he said.

Plecas said his speech also focused on his attempts to improve decorum during question period and debates in the B.C. legislature.

"We don't help ourselves by the behaviours we exhibit," he said. "I use the example of question period. It would be a bit of a leap to say the behaviour in question period is the kind we should aspire to."

He said many Canadians do not trust politicians and democracies worldwide are crumbling.

Plecas told the local politicians to seek leaders who possess a strong moral compass and strong inner core.

He cited former prime minister Jean Chretien as a successful Canadian leader and singled out several of his former B.C. Liberal colleagues, including MLAs Dan Ashton, John Martin and Laurie Throness. Plecas said he does not always agree with Ashton, Throness and Martin, but they have leadership strengths.

He said New Democrat Premier John Horgan exhibits strong leadership qualities through his actions.

"I have seen him behave in the most ethical manner when nobody was looking. That to me is a sign of leadership."

A report by Plecas earlier this year about overspending allegations at the B.C. legislature resulted in the clerk and sergeant-at-arms being placed on indefinite suspension amid an RCMP investigation.

Plecas was re-elected as a Liberal in 2017, but was ejected from the party caucus and now sits as an Independent after he accepted the Speaker's position in the minority New Democrat government.