The issue of drunk driving and people running for political office came up again in Saskatchewan last week as two separate stories regarding candidates and their run-ins with the law.
Good on the Sask Party and NDP for disclosing the candidates and their previous drunk driving convictions, six and five respectively out of 61 constituencies. What caught the attention of people was the fact that Sask Party leader Scott Moe did not disclose a 1994 case where he was charged with impaired driving and leaving the scene of an accident in 1994. Those charges were stayed by the crown and while they weren’t totally withdrawn (stayed means they could’ve been brought back within a year), no charges were pursued.
Reactions on social media have been at best ‘meh’ which is somewhat surprising. Not a lot has been said about it and there is even suggestion this is just the media trying to ‘stir it up.’
Moe told provincial media like the CBC that because the charges were stayed, he never publicly addressed them.
As a public official, voters want to ensure they have the highest of character and the best of intentions for the public. There needs to be no doubt or no questions in people’s minds.
Back in 2017, during the Sask Party leadership campaign in September 2017, Moe publicly addressed his 1992 conviction of drunk driving when he was 18 and then there was the (completely unrelated case to the impaired driving charges) fatal collision in 1997 which involved Moe running into mother and son Joanne and Steve Balog near Moe’s family farm near Shellbrook. There was no alcohol involved in the fatality but received a ticket for a provincial traffic offence of driving without undo care and attention. When contacted by media, Steve said that he has never heard from Moe since the accident and Moe responded that he will reach out to the family after the election is over so as not to cause any issues.
Of course it didn’t help the crown corporation which is in charge of the auto insurance program that the minister in charge of SGI Don McMorris pled guilty to a blood alcohol limit for .08 in an incident where he drove impaired through a Sask. construction zone. McMorris resigned from cabinet, vacating his roles as minister responsible for the provincial insurer SGI, Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, Crown Investments, and Public Service Commission. Ouch.
This all seems to be a bit much for the Sask. voter. Does it shake confidence in a voter’s desire to support a candidate or the entire process in general because of a conviction. Depends on the person. Some are much more forgiving than others, maybe too much some, maybe not enough.
While there were incidents, and many years ago, Moe came clean with them. Of course it didn’t stop Moe from running and they were made public provincially during the initial leadership campaign and yes, the stayed charges weren’t made light until just a few weeks ago. Does it waver anything?
Maybe most disconcerting is the fact Moe had infinite opportunities years ago to apologize to the Balog family regarding the death of Joann. It seems cold but perhaps legal counsel told him not to for some reason?
To be fair to Moe, Saskatchewan’s impaired driving laws have been improved dramatically in the last couple of years and SGI has been doing a lot in regards to educating people about the dangers and consequences of impaired and dangerous driving.
That is at least action with a problem that has plagued Saskatchewan for decades, a province which unfortunately is a leader in impaired driving convictions per capita nationally. The government has done what it can to stomp this out with some of the strictest rules in place in Canada. Should count for something.
Those running for office have it on their consciences about previous actions and whether or not to address them publicly. Call it a preemptive political strike so as to not give ammunition to adversaries but from a moral point of view, at the very least, you are showing to be up front and honest. You are showing that you have confidence in the voter the they can look at mistakes made and have them decide whether or not to get support. If you have confidence that you can be a great public representative and servant, two of those qualities should be open communication and honesty.
Otherwise, being silent, deceptive should make voters think twice about where they put that all important check mark come voting day.