Nova Scotia

Amid drunk driving allegations, Chester MLA Hugh MacKay maintains he's innocent

A Nova Scotia MLA who is facing his second impaired driving charge says he's innocent and that his situation has been "exploited for partisan political purposes."

Chester-St. Margaret’s MLA says his alcohol addiction being 'exploited for partisan political purposes'

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

Chester-St. Margaret's MLA Hugh MacKay, who was recently charged with impaired driving for the second time, is maintaining his innocence in relation to an alleged 2018 incident that has been the focus of considerable debate in the legislature.

The former Liberal backbencher is now sitting as an Independent MLA. He said in a statement issued Monday evening that he continues to "aggressively seek treatment" for his alcohol addiction.

On Feb. 23, MacKay announced he was resigning from the Liberal caucus after being charged earlier in the month in relation to an alleged incident around Tantallon, N.S., on Nov. 22, 2018. At the time, he said he didn't know the specifics of the allegation.

Since then, alleged details have emerged in the form of an email written last May by a former member of MacKay's riding association's board of directors, Michael Lawless.

He said after being called by his then-wife — who is MacKay's constituency assistant — he spent about two hours chasing after the politician, who he said was driving dangerously along roads before eventually crashing into a light pole in Upper Tantallon, N.S.

Hugh MacKay timeline

3 years ago
Duration 2:30
The Chester-St. Margaret's MLA, who is now sitting as an Independent, was charged earlier in February in relation to a drinking and driving allegation dating back to November 2018.

He also said MacKay had open liquor in his car and eventually had to be pulled out and taken somewhere to sleep. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

The email, which was also sent to caucus staff, alleged people decided not to call the police on MacKay in order to preserve his and other people's jobs.

PC Leader Tim Houston tabled a redacted version of the email in the legislature. Discussion of who knew what and when about the allegations dominated question period for several days.

Premier Stephen MacNeil maintained that though his chief of staff, Laurie Graham, learned about drunk driving allegations last May, he wasn't aware of them until late February.

Two members of the Chester-St. Margaret's Liberal district association have resigned.

MLA says his situation 'exploited'

MacKay addressed the controversy in his statement Monday saying he is "saddened to learn that this situation has been exploited for partisan political purposes by some members of the opposition."

"The legal system is the proper place for this matter to be settled, not on the floor of the legislature, nor in the court of public opinion," he said.

Last week, MacKay said in an email that he would soon issue a public statement to "provide clarity on the incident alleged by Michael Lawless."

When reached by email Monday evening, MacKay told CBC News he would not be commenting further on the matter.

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.

MacKay is due in provincial court in Halifax on March 16 to face the most recent charge.

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With files from Jean Laroche

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