Ex-premier Tobin's son pleads guilty in friend's death

Jack Tobin, the son of former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin, pleads guilty to impaired driving causing death in connection with a fatal incident in December.

The son of former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin has pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death in connection with an incident that left a friend dead in an Ottawa parking garage last December.

Jack Tobin, shown here with his father, former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin, has entered a guilty plea in connection with the death of his friend, Alex Zolpis, in Ottawa last December. ((Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press))
John (Jack) Tobin, 24, made the plea in an Ontario provincial courtroom on Tuesday.

Tobin was initially charged with impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death after his friend Alex Zolpis, 24, was pinned under a truck and died in a Byward Market parking garage.

 The charge of dangerous driving causing death has been dropped.

Tobin had been seeking to plead guilty but had to wait until the investigation was completed before he could enter his plea.

"Mr. Tobin at the very time he dealt with police officers acknowledged his responsibilities and said he wanted to do the right thing for everyone," Tobin's lawyer, Norm Boxall.

Alex Zolpis died after being pinned under a pickup truck on the top floor of this George Street parking garage in Ottawa. ((CBC))
Zolpis, of Ottawa, was pinned under a Dodge Ram truck on the 24-hour garage's top floor around 3 a.m. ET. He died minutes after emergency workers arrived.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Tobin, Zolpis and a group of friends were drinking at a pub in the Byward Market when they walked to the mutli-level parking garage and drove the truck to the garage's top level.

Seven friends were sitting in the pickup drinking and listening to music when, witnesses said, Tobin began spinning the truck in 180-degree turns. By the time it stopped, Zolpis was pinned underneath the truck, as was another man, who was treated for injuries.

Prosecutors said it was unclear from the witness statements how Zolpis ended up outside the vehicle or under it.

In Tobin's statement to police, he acknowledged he spun the truck around and stopped but said he didn't know how the tragedy occurred.

Sentencing has been scheduled for Aug. 4. He will remain under the conditions of his bail, including a requirement he live with his parents in Manotick and refrain from consuming alcohol.

Tobin a key player in politics

The message of the tragedy, according to MADD Canada spokesman Tom Wainwright, was clear. "Make the right choice," he said. "There's lots of choices out there. You can take a cab, you can get a bus, you can have a DD [designated driver], but make the right choice."

Brian Tobin has been a player in Canadian politics for almost three decades. Coming to prominence as a member of the so-called "Rat Pack" in the 1980s, he later became a key cabinet minister in the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien.

He became premier of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1996 but resigned in 2000 to return to federal politics. Tobin, however, abruptly retired from politics in early 2002, in an apparent split with then finance minister, and future prime minister, Paul Martin.

He has since been active in the private sector, particularly as executive chair of mining company Consolidated Thompson. Last week, U.S.-based Cliffs Natural Resources completed its takeover of Consolidated Thompson.