Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas was asked to be speaker by representatives of the NDP and Greens. Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

EXCLUSIVE: Liberal MLA confirms he threatened to quit party if Christy Clark stayed leader

Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas said the leadership didn’t listen

A BC Liberal MLA, once considered a star candidate when he first ran for election, has admitted he threatened to quit the party if Christy Clark stayed on as leader.

Darryl Plecas told The Abbotsford News on Friday that Clark and her leadership team’s “top-down, small-circle” style and unwillingness to make decisions that might cost the party votes prompted his ultimatum, which took place at caucus retreat in Penticton shortly before the premier announced her resignation.

“I disagreed with the leadership, I wanted to see change and I wanted to make my point very forcefully because anyone who’s familiar with the history of the current leadership, there was no chance she was ever going to resign,” he said.

Plecas said he felt Clark and her political staff didn’t listen enough, weren’t willing to let politicians speak their minds, and should have used B.C.’s surpluses to address social concerns in the province.

He was first elected to the provincial legislature in 2013. A prominent criminologist, he was considered a lead candidate when he first ran for office. But although he led a panel on crime reduction in 2014, he was never appointed to cabinet, holding only a pair of lesser parliamentary secretary positions.

“People need to have the opportunity to say what they really think,” he said. “What is the point of having somebody represent a local area, if you can’t speak freely about what you think the concerns are in your area?”

In an extended interview, Plecas spoke at length about the BC Liberal leadership he served under and suggested decisions were often made with political calculations front-of-mind.

“When people think of a leader, one of the things that comes to mind in politics is, ‘We need someone who can win.’ Well, yeah, but for me that’s secondary to the right person, because … it’s not just about having the leader win, it’s about having people win in every one of their constituencies and doing the right thing. And that’s hard.”

The interview wasn’t the first time recently Plecas has suggested in public that his party needs to head in a new direction.

On election day, he told supporters the BC Liberals needed to be more “humble” and had to find ways to help the less fortunate. He reiterated that Friday.

“We have had a mindset that has not been especially helpful to the social side of things,” he said. “You can’t have $6 billion of surpluses and not be doing things for people in need. To me, that’s not a stretch to do that.”

He said individual biases and viewpoints will influence decisions, “but that’s a very different thing than saying, ‘We need to win, we need to be in government, we need to do whatever it takes to do that.’”

Plecas gave as an example the BC Liberals refusal to ban trophy hunting in the province.

“In my mind, trophy hunting is fundamentally wrong. Like, it is wrong to kill an innocent animal simply so you can put its head on the wall. So, I don’t need to hear about all the political ramifications for that. I say, OK, there’s a collection of people out there whose livelihoods are affected by that. For me, the question becomes, ‘OK, how do we do this in a manner that minimizes the negative impact on that?’”

Asked if the political ramifications determined the policy, Plecas said, “Let me just say, we ended up not supporting a ban, and you know, Adam Olsen from the Greens has proposed a ban … Well, I want to be able to stand up and say, you know what, I agree with Adam Olsen.”

Plecas was reluctant to share details about his feelings toward Clark, but said her apparent inclination to remain as leader forced action.

“It was pretty clear she was going to stay on. It’s pretty harsh to say ‘I’m leaving,’ but, you know, sometimes you have to be harsh.”

He said some people within the Liberal caucus would make great leaders. But for his part, he said has no leadership aspirations himself “whatsoever.”

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