Former Saskatchewan deputy premier Don McMorris says it is a different experience being back in the legislature after pleading guilty to drunk driving.
For starters, McMorris is no longer Premier Brad Wall’s right-hand man, with a front row seat in the assembly.
McMorris resigned from cabinet and also left the Saskatchewan Party’s caucus after he was charged with drunk driving in August. He now sits as an Independent, tucked back in a corner _ although still on the government side.
“It’s an adjustment, like most everything else has been over the last 2 1/2 months,” McMorris said after question period.
McMorris was driving a government car when he was pulled over by police the morning of Aug. 5 on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Regina.
Court heard he had nearly 2 1/2 times the legal amount of alcohol in his system. He pleaded guilty to having a blood-alcohol level over .08, was fined $1,820 and lost his licence for a year.
Wednesday was the first day of the fall sitting of the legislature and McMorris was the first member to speak.
“My actions, there is no rationale and no excuses, absolutely none for it, so with that I apologize to the members of this House,” he said in a brief statement.
McMorris was a key member of Wall’s government.
In addition to being deputy premier, McMorris oversaw the province’s liquor and gaming authority, was the minister of Crown investments and was responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, the government’s publicly owned automobile insurer.
He is also a former health minister and highways minister.
McMorris has said he won’t ask to return to the Saskatchewan Party caucus.
“Oh, I’d love to be back in caucus, don’t get me wrong, but I stepped away. I can’t sit at the edge of the door and knock to get back in. If they want to let me in, they will.”
In the meantime, he said there are some things he’s been thinking about as a private member. He said it is too early to comment further, but suggests the ideas could be along the lines of ways to address drunk driving because of his new perspective.
“When you go through what I’ve gone through, it doesn’t leave your mind,” he said.
Drunk driving rates are high in Saskatchewan.
According to Statistics Canada there were 683 police-reported impaired driving incidents per 100,000 population in Saskatchewan in 2011. The Canadian average was 262.
The premier has said that although the government has toughened penalties for drinking and driving with longer licence suspensions and vehicle seizures, the problem persists.
Wall has called on his ministers to come up with suggestions for tackling the province’s high drinking and driving rates.