The Opposition NDP is calling for former deputy premier Don McMorris to resign as a member of the Saskatchewan legislature following his guilty plea to drunk driving.
McMorris was fined last week and lost his licence for a year after he was caught driving with 2 1/2 times the legal amount of alcohol in his bloodstream.
“We have a code of conduct which requires us to be lawful, requires us to be held to a higher standard beyond that,” NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon said Monday at the legislature
“And regardless of all of that, drinking and driving is an issue and a problem all across our province. For him to continue as an MLA would send all the wrong signals to kids and communities all across our province.”
Premier Brad Wall said Monday that he does not believe McMorris should resign as an MLA.
Wall said McMorris, who was first elected in 1999 and had served in cabinet since the Saskatchewan Party took power in 2007, has a lot to offer.
“When he goes through the process he’s going through, gets the counselling he needs and makes the changes that he’s making, I think he has much to offer the people of Indian Head Milestone,” said Wall. “All evidence that I’ve seen from interacting directly with his voters and constituents is that … they agree.”
On the weekend, Wall and Wotherspoon also spoke after a funeral for Tanner Kaufmann. The 37-year-old father of two was training his dog on a rural road north of Regina on Sept. 4 when he was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver. Wotherspoon said Kaufmann was a friend.
Wall has called on MLAs to make suggestions for ways to tackle the province’s high drinking and driving rates when the legislature reconvenes next month.
The premier said the government has moved to crack down on drunk driving by implementing longer licence suspensions and vehicle seizures, and by adding police officers. It made interlocking vehicle ignition mandatory for convicted impaired drivers.
“We just haven’t made enough progress yet.”
The rate of impaired driving fatalities in Saskatchewan is 9.76 deaths per 100,000 — the highest rate per capita in Canada and more than three times the national average.
Last week, Mothers Against Drunk Driving urged the province to toughen penalties to stop what the group calls a “pervasive culture” of impaired driving.
The NDP said the province should implement a three-day vehicle impoundment for first-time offenders — something the Opposition first recommended when an all-party legislative committee studied traffic laws three years ago.
In the August 2013 committee report, two New Democrats wrote in a minority opinion that the fatality rate involving alcohol dropped by 50 per cent after the three-day impoundment was implemented in 2010 in British Columbia.
Wall said options could include longer suspensions and longer vehicle impoundment.
“I can’t change what’s happened in the past in terms of government policy, but we’re going to look at this again.”