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McNeil doubles down on support for chief of staff accused of covering up MacKay allegations

Click to play video: 'Premier’s chief of staff allowed to keep her job' Premier’s chief of staff allowed to keep her job
The chief of staff won’t be fired, after deciding not to tell the premier about the criminal allegations against MLA Hugh MacKay who has been charged with a count of impaired driving. Elizabeth McSheffrey has more – Feb 27, 2020

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil isn’t backing down on his support for chief-of-staff Laurie Graham, after it was recently discovered she knew about impaired driving allegations against former Liberal MLA Hugh MacKay.

MacKay, the MLA for Chester-St. Margaret’s who resigned from the Liberal caucus earlier this week, has been charged with impaired driving for a second time.

“I continue to have all the confidence in her and I support the judgement she made on this one,” McNeil told reporters on Thursday.

“What should have happened, is the person who actually penned the letter should have gone to police on that day.”

Graham, who has declined two days in a row to comment on this issue, will “absolutely” keep her job, he added.

Laurie Graham, seen here in a Twitter profile picture, learned about allegations against MLA Hugh MacKay while on a trade mission in Europe with the premier in May 2019.
Laurie Graham, seen here in a Twitter profile picture, learned about allegations against MLA Hugh MacKay while on a trade mission in Europe with the premier in May 2019. Twitter

READ MORE: N.S. premier says chief of staff knew of allegations against former Liberal MLA for months

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During question period on Tuesday, the Progressive Conservatives tabled an email written by a former member of MacKay’s riding association’s board of directors, describing an alleged impaired driving incident involving the MLA on Nov. 22, 2018.

The writer, whose name is redacted, accused MacKay, in detail, of driving drunk through his riding and crashing into a light pole in Upper Tantallon, N.S.

McNeil said Wednesday that his chief of staff became aware of the allegations in May 2019, but decided not to tell him. After contacting both MacKay and his caucus assistant to ask about the night in question, McNeil said Graham found the allegations had no merit.

She had not seen the email at the time and didn’t contact its author to ask about the claims.

Opposition Leader Tim Houston believes the email detailing efforts to get MacKay off the roads is credible, despite none of the allegations having been proven in court.

“We’re not talking about the member, we’re not actually really even talking about a DUI,” he said. “What we’re talking about is the moral character of a government that would have information about their members and wouldn’t bother to look because they didn’t want to know.

“There’s so much the premier could have done to handle this differently, had he been actually concerned about the member, had he been actually concerned about anything except protecting the Liberal brand.”

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NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the “standard of conduct” in which this affair has been handled would not be accepted in his party.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia Tories accusing Liberal government of cover-up' Nova Scotia Tories accusing Liberal government of cover-up
Nova Scotia Tories accusing Liberal government of cover-up – Feb 26, 2020

Liberal MLA Margaret Miller, who lost her son to a drunk driver, said the allegations against MacKay should never have been raised in the legislature.

She hopes MacKay is getting the help he needs.

“I encouraged him actually to read my book which tells of the story of about 12 victims of impaired driving and how the families dealt with their losses and what it meant to them,” said Miller.

“He knew how serious it was.”

MacKay has not responded to repeated calls for comment.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia Tories say email shows coverup of alleged drunk driving incident

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MacKay pleaded guilty to a charge of impaired driving last year in relation to an incident on Oct. 13.

He’s expected to face the most recent impaired driving charge in Halifax provincial court on March 16.

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