Former B.C. legislature clerk George McMinn (left) and others watch as Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan, then assistant deputy speaker, tries out replica speaker’s chair set up for tourists, spring 2013. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Former B.C. legislature clerk George McMinn (left) and others watch as Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan, then assistant deputy speaker, tries out replica speaker’s chair set up for tourists, spring 2013. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

New speaker takes charge as B.C. legislature starts brief session

Burnaby MLA was assistant during Darryl Plecas era

Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan took over as B.C. legislature speaker Monday, without the drama that accompanied his predecessor Darryl Plecas’s decision to split from the B.C. Liberals and support an NDP minority government in 2017.

Chouhan is part of a 57-seat NDP majority after October’s snap election, making his election as speaker a formality as Premier John Horgan heads into a brief pre-Christmas session to present plans for COVID-19 containment and recovery. Plecas retired after two terms as Abbotsford South MLA, after triggering a police investigation into spending and personnel issues that continues with two special prosecutors overseeing it.

Born in the Punjab province of India, Chouhan immigrated to Canada in 1973 and has been a lifelong advocate for labour rights, human rights and racial equality. Premier John Horgan welcomed Chouhan as an immigrant farm worker who was fired from his job in B.C., launching him on a career of advocacy for farm workers. Horgan noted that Chouhan is the first South Asian to hold the position in B.C.

“As a proud member of the Indo-Canadian community, I am tremendously proud of this historic occasion and honoured to continue my public service in this new role,” Chouhan said Dec. 7. “There was a time when people of colour were not even allowed in this building, much less this chamber.”

RELATED: B.C. legislature travel, gifts need better control, audior says

RELATED: Plecas seized hard drives of senior B.C. legislature staff

In a brief speech after being acclaimed with no one else standing for the speaker job, Chouhan credited fellow farm worker advocate Charan Gill and others for their work.

Speaking to reporters after being acclaimed to the position, Chouhan described himself as a “lifelong member of the NDP and a very proud trade unionist,” but emphasized that his role is strictly non-partisan.

“My focus is going to be to make sure that this place runs really efficiently, and everybody’s concerns are taken care of,” Chouhan said. “I haven’t seen all the recommendations made by speaker Plecas, but my focus is going to be to make question period become the most dull and boring question period.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Lake Babine Nation closure sign
Lake Babine Nation issues COVID numbers update

Urges members to follow provincial health orders

NH representative confirmed that people who received their first dose will be scheduled to receive their second dose within the recommended timeframe.(The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette photo)
Vaccine rollout abruptly halted in Lakes District

Northern Health cites Pfizer shipment delays for the vaccine distribution disruption

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

Most Read