Nova Scotia

Ex-MLA Russell MacKinnon heads to trial

Former MLA Russell MacKinnon is heading to trial on fraud charges related to a spending scandal at the legislature.

Former MLA Russell MacKinnon will fight to clear his name when he goes to trial on charges related to a constituency spending scandal, his lawyer says.

"There is absolutely no chance that there will be a guilty plea," Joel Pink told reporters Monday in Halifax.

MacKinnon, a former Liberal cabinet minister, is charged with eight counts of uttering a forged document and one count each of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust.

Both the defence and Crown agreed to proceed to trial after a one-day preliminary hearing in Halifax provincial court.

The court heard from three witnesses. Their testimony cannot be reported because of a publication ban on evidence.

"There are a lot more witnesses for trial," said Crown attorney Andrew Macdonald, noting that his three main witnesses spoke Monday.

Pink said they tried to move things along quickly so they could "get on with it."

MacKinnon deflected questions from reporters as he left the courthouse with his wife, MLA Michele Raymond.

"Speak to Mr. Pink. He knows all the answers," MacKinnon said.

The trial will be argued before a judge only. No trial date has been set yet.

Charged after report released

MacKinnon sat for years as a Liberal in Cape Breton. He was an Independent in his last year as an MLA in 2006.

He was charged last year following a scandal related to MLA constituency expenses.

In February 2010, Auditor General Jacques Lapointe released a report that cited "excessive" and "unreasonable" claims by some of the province's 52 MLAs. Examples included claims for televisions, custom furniture and a generator.

Two other former MLAs — Liberal MLA Dave Wilson and Progressive Conservative Richard Hurlburt — were also charged, as was sitting MLA Trevor Zinck.

Wilson pleaded guilty last September to uttering forged documents, fraud and breach of trust. His sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 25.