Voters react to MLA Wes McLean's impaired driving charge

People who live in Wes McLean's riding of Victoria-Tobique have mixed reactions to news that he has been stripped of his legislative duties by the premier after being charged with impaired driving on Feb. 2.

Wes McLean is not the first New Brunswick politician to be charged with impaired dirving

People who live in Wes McLean's riding of Victoria-Tobique have had mixed reactions to him being stripped of his legislative duties by the premier after he was charged with impaired driving earlier this month.

Many of the voters approached by CBC News on Monday appeared to be sympathetic to the 31-year-old Progressive Conservative MLA, who was pulled over by police in Edmundston on Feb. 2.

"I think he should have another chance," said Noella St. Peter. "He'll probably learn from this."

Ronald Hatheway, who said he's known McLean since he was a boy, agrees.

"I mean 19 years ago I made a mistake, but I learned from it," Hatheway said.

Muriel Rae, however, said McLean should be disciplined and held to a higher standard.

"Drinking and driving is one of those things that can cost people their lives and if he doesn't value human life by drinking and driving, then how can he represent us?"

Ken Gough also believes constituents should expect more from their elected officials.

"I think Wes McLean's a good man and represents us quite well, but he should have known better."

Premier David Alward said in a statement last Friday that society has zero tolerance for impaired driving and that he was thankful no one was injured by McLean's "irresponsible action."

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

McLean not first N.B. politician to be charged

In 1989, Madawaska-Restigouche MP Bernard Valcourt stepped down after pleading guilty to impaired driving.

It wasn't a career-ending move for Valcourt, who returned in 2011 as the minister in charge of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency under the Harper government.

Former Dieppe mayor Jean LeBlanc pleaded guilty to refusing to take a breathalyzer in 2010.

He said he had made a mistake and felt horrible.

A spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Atlantic Canada said at the time it was a good sign that LeBlanc had come forward and it showed he wasn't trying to abuse his position or evade responsibility.

"If we turn the clock back say 10 or 15 years ago, who's to know whether we ever would have heard about these kinds of charges at all," Chris Nagle had said.

"I'm sure that in the past, not just in Dieppe or Moncton, but all across Canada these kind of things used to be swept under the rug, but now that's not happening."