B.C. premier should quit over drunk driving charge: MADD

Mothers Against Drunk Driving demands B.C. premier resign after being charged with impaired driving, Campbell to hold news conference Sunday

A national group that lobbies against impaired driving is calling on B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell to resign until a criminal charge against him is dealt with by a court in Hawaii.

Campbell's office confirmed Friday afternoon that the premier had been arrested while on vacation in Maui and accused of drunk driving. He issued a statement stating that he does not intend to contest the charge, and that he regrets the incident.

The premier was scheduled to make his first comments to the media about the impaired driving charge at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

In a statement issued Saturday, the Canadian chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) urged Campbell to "do the honourable thing and step down when he makes his statement tomorrow."

"The premier of a province needs to demonstrate sound judgment and, through example, a moral authority," said Louise Knox, the president of MADD in Canada.

"He should step down until his court appearance, and if he is convicted, he should fulfill his obligations to his sentence before returning as premier."

'We stand behind him'

But some of Campbell's colleagues have rallied to his defence. B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins called the premier's behaviour a "human and very terrible mistake," but argued there was no reason for a resignation.

"It's a personal issue," said Collins, who talked to Campbell in private on Saturday. "It has nothing to do with his job as premier."

The finance minister agreed that the charge might hurt the Liberal party in the short term, but he said the government would press on with its agenda.

"We have a big job to do," Collins said. "We were elected with an overwhelming mandate to do that job. He is the key part of that and we stand behind him."

Campbell, 54, has been charged with driving while having a blood-alcohol concentration level above .08 per cent. He was photographed, fingerprinted and spent seven hours in jail before posting bail of $257. A court date has been tentatively scheduled for March 25.

Pundits are divided on whether he will weather the political storm back home.

"It's a very serious situation. The premier has to consider resigning," according to political analyst Bill Tielman. "He was found drunk driving in a foreign country. He spent time in jail the first premier that we know of in Canadian history to spend time in a jail."

"I don't think we're going to see any calls from his cabinet or his caucus asking for his resignation," says political consultant Will McMartin. "If they all decide to get behind the premier and tough it out with him, then I think he will survive."

If convicted, Campbell would lose his driving privileges in Hawaii for three months, and face a maximum penalty of five days in jail and a fine of between $150 and $1,000. He could also be ordered to take an alcohol counselling program and perform community service.