Nova Scotia

Hugh MacKay pleads not guilty to latest drunk driving charge

The lawyer for former Liberal MLA Hugh MacKay has pleaded not guilty on his client's behalf to a charge of drunk driving, the second alcohol-related charge the Nova Scotia politician has faced in less than six months.

In surprising move, defence lawyer elects for trial to be heard as more serious indictable offence

Hugh MacKay enters court in Halifax on Nov. 8, 2019. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The lawyer for MLA Hugh MacKay entered a plea of not guilty on his client's behalf on Thursday at Halifax provincial court, but in a surprise move, Don Murray said he wanted to proceed with the charge as an indictable offence, rather than a less serious summary offence.

It's unclear why Murray is taking this approach.

"We have other reasons for making an issue of this," he told reporters after the court appearance.

When a reporter suggested the move was unusual, Murray countered with a jab at Crown prosecutors, who are bringing forward a case that's alleged to have happened in November 2018.

"Well, what's unusual is the Crown, after so much time, a year and a half, [are] deciding to prosecute something," he said.

Last November, MacKay pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit in relation to an incident on Oct. 13, 2019. He was fined $2,000 and prohibited from driving for a year.

Last month, Police charged MacKay with impaired driving for an alleged Nov. 22, 2018, incident based on evidence, in part, included in an email tabled in the Nova Scotia legislature at the beginning of the spring sitting.

Startling allegations

The email includes startling allegations that MacKay drove drunk with open liquor in his car, weaved along the road as he drove through his constituency and ultimately hit a lamp post in Upper Tantallon, damaging his car.

Although MacKay has professed his innocence, he resigned from the Liberal caucus and now sits as an Independent in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.

MacKay is due back at Halifax provincial court on Dec. 7, which is the first full day where court time is available.

Murray told the court his client wanted an early trial date to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Election timing?

Outside the court, Murray brushed aside the suggestion that had to do with a desire by MacKay to try to clear his name so he could rejoin the Liberals in time for the next election.

"He's not a member of caucus and I don't know if the premier will be consulting with me about [election] dates," said Murray.

"This thing took supposedly took place a year and a half ago and now they're asking us to wait almost another full year. So it'll be more than two years old before it even comes to trial."