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

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey chief constable says ‘comprehensive’ public engagement to be done this year

Norm Lipinski says Surrey Police Service has ‘good momentum’

Dyllan Petrin is charged related to an ongoing investigation in Surrey involving a kidnapping and assault that occurred in July, 2019. (Photo: Surrey RCMP)
Man arrested in connection to kidnapping, murder investigations: Surrey RCMP

Police say Dyllan Petrin was arrested in Vancouver

Surrey-raised forward Jujhar Khaira in action with Edmonton Oilers. (Photo: nhl.com)
Q&A: Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira credits parents for their hard work on his path to NHL

Port Kells-raised player talks about his journey to pro hockey with Edmonton Oilers

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
OUR VIEW: Surrey Police Service continues to draw from RCMP well

Again, it flies in the face of mayor’s election campaign pitch that Surrey needs a police force whose ranks live in this city

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Most Read