REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says a key cabinet minister made “a terrible decision” to get behind the wheel after drinking.
Don McMorris was charged with impaired driving Friday after he was pulled over by RCMP in a construction zone east of Regina.
He has said he “should have never got behind the wheel after drinking,” but he has declined to say what his blood-alcohol level was and the impaired driving charge has not been proven in court.
After the charge, McMorris called Wall to resign as deputy premier, as well as minister responsible for Crown Investments Corporation, Saskatchewan Government Insurance, Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Public Service Commission.
“To say very, very disappointed really doesn’t quite cover it because of what was risked that day, what Don risked when he made that decision, in terms of the lives of others and his own life,” Wall said Monday.
“Let’s just be very clear, there’s just no circumstance where you can rationalize this decision, even if you think ‘well I’ve only had a couple.’ Not on a grid road back from a small town hotel, not on a town street, not on a city street, not on a highway or in a construction zone.”
Wall confirmed that McMorris was driving a government car at the time, but didn’t know whether he was on government business.
Opposition New Democrat Nicole Sarauer said the good news is that no one was hurt.
“I’m happy to see that Mr. McMorris is taking this seriously enough to step down from his portfolios and step down from caucus and getting the help that he needs,” said Sarauer.
Sarauer said she hopes the situation prompts the government to do more to crack down on drinking and driving in Saskatchewan, which has the highest impaired driving rates per capita of all provinces.
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.
McMorris said he has indicated many times that drinking and driving is dangerous and unacceptable, which is why the government has strengthened laws and penalties to combat it.
“One incident is too many, and I’m that one incident,” he said Saturday.
He said he will leave the Saskatchewan Party caucus while he deals with case and seeks counselling.
Wall said McMorris is making the right decisions about accountability.
“He’s decided, I think most importantly of all, to get some help, to get some counselling and so as a friend, I’m glad that he’s doing that.”
Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter will take over McMorris’s responsibilities, except for the role deputy premier, on an interim basis. Wall said he will not name a new deputy premier until a cabinet shuffle in two or three weeks.
It’s not likely that McMorris, a former health minister and highways minister, will re-emerge in cabinet any time soon.
“I don’t know how this blows over,” said Wall.
“What’s going to be very important here is what Don avails himself of in terms of counselling and support and I think that will dictate things down the road.”