Candidate vetting questioned after bad driving records surface
One Liberal charged with drunk driving, another has 32 traffic infractions
Last Updated: Friday, April 24, 2009 | 9:07 PM PT
The way the B.C. Liberal Party screened its candidates for the May 12 election was questioned Friday after a CBC News investigation found two Liberal candidates had run-ins with the law.
The revelations came on the same day Solicitor General John van Dongen made public the four-month suspension of his driver's licence for two speeding tickets. Four days earlier, Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell had criticized the NDP for not vetting its candidates carefully.
Van Dongen, who is running for re-election as a Liberal in Abbotsford South, said Friday he would not appeal the driving prohibition decision.
Last Sunday, a Liberal member drew public attention to NDP member Ray Lam's Facebook photos — one showing Lam palming a woman's breast and another showing him with his pants down and two people pulling at his underwear. Lam quit the race the same day.
CBC News checked the driving records of the candidates of both the Liberals and the NDP using Court Services Online, the provincial electronic court registry. Both parties are fielding candidates in all of the province's 85 ridings.
'Obviously, it was a moment of, like I said, indiscretion, and it is definitely something I wouldn't advocate.'— Jesse McClinton
New Democrat Doug Brown, the candidate for the Kamloops-North Thompson riding, has nine traffic infractions, seven of which were for speeding. Harry Lali, who's running in Fraser-Nicola, has four speeding tickets.
But two Liberal candidates stood out from the driving records.
Liberal candidate Jesse McClinton, who is running in Victoria-Swan Lake, was arrested in July 2006 for drinking and driving and faced criminal charges, according to the registry.
McClinton admitted Friday he was the person behind the wheel in the 2006 case and was charged with driving while impaired, driving while over the legal blood alcohol limit and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.Liberal candidate Laura McDiarmid, a professional driver, has piled up 33 driving infractions in the past 10 year. (CBC)
He was not convicted on those charges but instead pleaded guilty to driving without reasonable consideration and was fined $200 and given a one-month driving probation.
"I was a scared, you know, young 26-year-old, and perhaps if I had more money or … I would have taken the case a little bit farther," McClinton told CBC News Friday.
McClinton said he has had a clean driving record since and will not quit the race over his youthful indiscretion.
"Obviously, it was a moment of, like I said, indiscretion, and it is definitely something I wouldn't advocate," he said. "It is not to be taken lightly, and it was something I was deeply apologetic for."
Another Liberal candidate, Laura McDiarmid, who is running in Vancouver-West End, stood out among other Liberals in the number of traffic infractions she has acquired.
McDiarmid, a professional limousine driver, has racked up 33 driving infractions in the past 10 years.
'If we said to people if you have any driving infractions you are not eligible to run for office, we'll have a pretty small legislature.'— B.C. Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell
She has a history of parking where she pleases, according to court records, including bus stops and no-stopping zones. In the past four years, she has been cited eight times for speeding, including once for excessive speeding.
"I have time constraints," McDiarmid told CBC News Friday. "I have to get people to the airport. They are on a schedule; I am on a schedule."
"Driving for a living, those kinds of things come with that profession," she said.
McDiarmid was even sued over her driving in connection with a multi-vehicle accident in April 2001 in Vancouver.
A woman injured in the crash took McDiarmid to court, claiming the Liberal candidate was driving at excessive speed, failed to comply with rules of the road and was driving without due care and attention. The lawsuit was settled out of court.
Asked whether she should be running in the election, McDiarmid said:
"I do think that I should be running, because we have other issues at hand here. I have made a commitment to be more careful in future, and I mean that."
Citing sensitivity for the environment and the urban nature of her riding, McDiarmid has been doing much of her campaigning in Vancouver-West End on foot.
So far this year, she has not received a single ticket.
When asked about the past driving records of his own party's candidates, Liberal Leader Campbell said: "Lots of us got parking tickets."
"I don't know about everyone's driver's record," Campbell said Friday.
"I can tell you if we said to people, 'If you have any driving infractions, you are not eligible to run for office,' we'll have a pretty small legislature," he said.
"It is important for people to be accountable for their actions, myself included, I might add .… As far as I know, the tickets have been paid off."