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

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A single-vehicle incident impacted the morning commute on the Pat Bay Highway. (Black Press Media file photo)
TRAFFIC: Single-vehicle incident closes section of Pat Bay

Northbound traffic down to one lane, southbound reopened

Four residents and two cats were displaced from their home in James Bay when a fire broke out Sunday afternoon. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
No injuries in James Bay house fire

Fire broke out at about 2 p.m. Sunday

LeoVegas's promotional art for their survey of Canada's funniest proviences (LeoJoker)
B.C. second-funniest province in Canada: online survey

Dry humour popular with B.C. residents – we’re also boisterous laughers

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Most Read