MLA Wes McLean pleads guilty to impaired driving

Victoria-Tobique Progressive Conservative MLA Wes McLean has pleaded guilty to impaired driving.

Fined $2,300, prohibited from driving for one year for being three times over legal limit

Victoria-Tobique Progressive Conservative MLA Wes McLean has pleaded guilty to impaired driving 2:10

Victoria-Tobique Progressive Conservative MLA Wes McLean has pleaded guilty to impaired driving.

He was fined $2,300 in Edmundston provincial court on Wednesday, and is prohibited from driving for one year.

Tests showed he had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system.

McLean, 31, said he accepts responsibility for the crime and its consequences.

He also apologized to his family, friends and constituents in his northwestern New Brunswick riding.

"I apologize to them for putting them through this. I’ll continue to do that and continue to do the work I’ve been doing even since it happened," he said.

"Certainly I accept fully the responsibility for those actions … I’m not going to try to evade any responsibility for this."

The first-term MLA said he is grateful for the response he has received from the people in his riding.

"People have been wonderfully compassionate, certainly more than I deserved. I am very grateful for that, that is certainly a blessing that I did not deserve but I am definitely grateful," he said.

McLean was pulled over in Edmundston on Feb. 2 after police received a tip from a citizen about an erratic driver, court heard.

Mixed reactions from constituents

Some of his constituents in Perth-Andover told CBC News they're willing to forgive him.

"It was a mistake and everybody makes mistakes and we have to go on with life," said Doreen Sappier.

Sharon Moffatt agreed. "He did make a mistake and I certainly don't approve of people drinking and driving," she said. "He owned up to it and I feel he deserves a second chance."

But Al McPhail, chair of the flood victims committee, said McLean's blood alcohol level makes it a little more difficult to accept.

"I think it's pretty hard to make an argument that, 'Gee, I just had that one extra beer and I had no idea,'" McPhail said.

"Three times over the limit, that's a very very dangerous situation, a recipe for disaster. He's lucky that all that happened was that he got caught."

Still, McPhail doesn't believe the charge will hurt McLean politically.

"I don't think that this harms Wes anywhere near the degree that for example, the loss of our surgery at the hospital and other issues related to the flooding situation, et cetera," he said.

Legislative role up to caucus

McLean was quickly stripped of his legislative duties of deputy house leader and legislative secretary to the premier after he was charged.

He was not removed from caucus, but the deputy house leader position carries a salary top-up, while his committee assignments provide a per diem for meetings when the legislature is not sitting.

It's unclear when — or even if — McLean will resume those roles, Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud told reporters on Wednesday.

"It is going to be a decision of the caucus. I don’t know how long it will take," Robichaud said.

"Caucus will decide, caucus will also take into consideration the new information that we received today" he said, referring to McLean being three times over the legal limit, he said.

"That new information will probably affect the decision of the caucus to decide when he is going to come back to his other responsibilities — if we decide he will come back to his other responsibilities."

Premier David Alward had issued a statement in February, saying society has zero tolerance for impaired driving and that he was thankful no one was injured by McLean's "irresponsible action."

McLean expressed his "deep regret" for his "serious breach of trust and error in judgment," the premier had said.