PQ candidate Guy Leclair withdraws from campaign after impaired driving charges

Parti Québécois candidate Guy Leclair has pulled out of the campaign after being charged with impaired driving.

Leclair said he made the decision to withdraw with regret, but that his party's campaign was too important to be sidelined by questions about the charges he faces. 

"I will contribute in the coming days in choosing a new candidate who will take up the work of defending the citizens of Beauharnois," Leclair said in a statement.

Leclair, who served as an MNA in the Beauharnois riding for 10 years, was most recently the PQ's pension and labour critic. 

He maintains that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing in court.

Leclair was arrested July 13, and his driver's licence was suspended for 90 days. He is to appear in court in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield on Sept. 21.

Party leader Jean-François Lisée initially said that he stood by his candidate, but after Leclair was formally charged he suggested that Leclair may not rejoin the PQ caucus until his court proceedings were concluded.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, Lisée said that Leclair called him around 10 p.m. to say he was stepping down, and to thank Lisée for coming to his defence.

The PQ leader told reporters earlier Wednesday that during a campaign, there is pressure to forget the presumption of innocence and to immediately dump a candidate who could be politically damaging.

"I will not take part in that," Lisée said.

Lisée said he knew last month about Leclair's arrest, but he said he did not make the information public because Leclair had not been formally charged with a crime at the time.

Leclair disputes the police version of the incident. Speaking with Radio-Canada, Leclair said he blew into a breathalyzer twice, despite police reporting that he refused.

This was not the first time Leclair has faced charges. He received 11 other driving and parking infractions between 2003 and 2018, Radio-Canada reported. 

In 2011, he was convicted for impaired driving, fined $2,000 and his licence was suspended for a year.

With files from Radio-Canada