A long-time Conservative MP from Edmonton who spoke out against legalizing random breath-analysis tests to root out drunk drivers has been charged with refusing to provide a breath sample.
Peter Goldring, who has been re-elected six times and represents Edmonton East, has also left the Tory caucus while his case moves through the court system.
"The member has voluntarily withdrawn from our caucus while the charges are resolved, because our government takes drinking and driving very seriously," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.
The PMO declined to provide further details since the matter is now before the court.
Staff members in Mr. Goldring's offices in Edmonton and Ottawa said they had no information about the situation and told reporters seeking comment that the member "could not be reached."
Mr. Goldring, who turns 67 next week, is married, has two children and has represented his riding since 1997, first under the Reform Party banner and then for Canadian Alliance before he became part of the Conservative Party. He was attending a community event Saturday night.
Chad Orydzuk, a spokesman with the Edmonton Police Service, said officers on patrol for suspected impaired drivers pulled over a vehicle around 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 4. Mr. Orydzuk said officers allege that Mr. Goldring refused to provide a breath sample using a roadside screening device.
The charge brings an immediate 24-hour licence suspension, followed by a 21-day grace period and a three-month licence suspension. A conviction carries a minimum $1,000 fine and up to five years in jail as well as a potential further driving prohibition. A court date has not been set.
On Dec. 1, Edmonton police issued a press release to remind drivers that the city's holiday Checkstop program would kick off. Already this year, there have been 1,844 impaired driving arrests in the Alberta capital compared to 2,190 in all of 2010.
Alberta is in the midst of a heated debate about toughening its drunk driving legislation and Ottawa created a stir when it proposed roadside screening for any driver, even if police do not have a reason to believe they have consumed alcohol.
Two years ago, Mr. Goldring described random breath-analysis tests, a proposal backed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as "disturbing." A missive, posted on his website on Dec. 1, 2009, said the ability of police to ask for breath samples of suspected impaired drivers during check stops should be sufficient to make the roads safer.
"It is safe to say everyone is opposed to drunk driving – but there are civil liberty issues involved," he wrote. "There is the presumption of innocence and the right to not self incriminate. That may seem odious when we're talking about a crime such as drunk driving, but it is hypocritical to hold principles and apply them only when convenient."
Leila Moulder, president of MADD's Edmonton and area chapter, said she was "surprised and disappointed" by the allegation against such a high-profile member of the community.
"His [alleged] actions were a complete lack of responsibility and disregard for public safety."