Rankin says he'll consider making candidates declare criminal convictions

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Premier Iain Rankin at the provincial COVID-19 briefing on Monday, where he addressed the fact he was charged with impaired driving in 2003 and again in 2005.  (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)
Premier Iain Rankin at the provincial COVID-19 briefing on Monday, where he addressed the fact he was charged with impaired driving in 2003 and again in 2005. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)

Facing continued questions about his impaired driving record, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said Thursday he will consider whether Liberal caucus members should publicly declare if they have criminal convictions.

In Saskatchewan, both major parties declare criminal convictions of candidates, though it is not a legal requirement.

Rankin said he would draw on that province's experience in making a decision.

"I'm not against that as an idea, so I will think about that and look at what the process is and how Saskatchewan went through that," Rankin told reporters.

The premier said he is not aware if any other members of the Liberal caucus have a criminal record.

Rankin disclosed publicly Monday at a COVID-19 briefing that he was convicted of impaired driving in 2003 when he was 20. The admission was prompted by a media inquiry.

Second incident

He also said he was charged in a second incident in 2005.

Court records show police said Rankin failed two breathalyzer tests after the white Subaru he was driving crashed and flipped into a ditch on Kearney Lake Road in Halifax in July 2005.

He was initially found guilty and faced 14 days jail time. The conviction was later overturned on appeal.

Rankin has repeatedly refused to answer whether he was drunk during the second incident.

"I've laid out the facts and outcomes of court decisions, and it's a matter of the public record," he said.

"Rehashing some of those facts is not going to change anything. I wish I could go back in time, but what I think is important is what I've learned and I'm a different person today than I was in my early 20s and I'm moving forward."

Drank more than he should

On Thursday, Rankin said he "drank too much" when he was in his early 20s.

"I did frequent bars until late at night and I've since moved on," he said. "I lead a professional career that I think is inappropriate to be intoxicated while you're working, and I certainly don't do that. I do enjoy a beer or two going out to a pub and I don't abuse alcohol."

Rankin said his friends, the Liberal Party and former premier and party leader Stephen McNeil were all informed about the impaired driving cases.

He said that information was disclosed and vetted by the party when he ran and won the leadership earlier this year.

"I did disclose that I both had a criminal record with the 2003 conviction, and then I had an interaction with the 2005 incident that was dismissed in court," said Rankin.

'Poor judgment'

With a provincial election expected this summer, opponents say Rankin has not been forthcoming.

"The premier misled Nova Scotians regarding his second arrest ... and downplayed the severity of it. It speaks to poor judgment and weak leadership," the Progressive Conservative Party said in a statement Thursday attributed to campaign co-chairs Tara Miller and Cameron MacKeen.

The party said none of its caucus or nominated candidates have criminal records.

"Publicly releasing caucus or candidate criminal records is not something we have discussed, but can look into," the statement added.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said Rankin should have disclosed everything publicly after he became premier in February.

"I would have thought good judgment would have led him to make this disclosure and to not try to minimize it in any way, not to say it was many years ago, or I've moved on, or I was found innocent of X or Y, but simply to assume full responsibility ... and to be completely straightforward about it," Burrill told reporters Thursday.

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