POLITICS

Peter Goldring: Edmonton MP Who Quit Tory Caucus Over Charge Now A 'Civil Libertarian'

01/03/2012 12:32 EST | Updated 03/04/2012 05:12 EST
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Edmonton MP Peter Goldring has changed his caucus affiliation to "Civil Libertarian" after leaving the Conservative caucus because of a criminal charge laid last month.

The MP for Edmonton East was charged in early December with refusing to provide a breath sample when he was pulled over in Edmonton as part of the police service's annual impaired driving prevention program. Goldring was not taken into custody, but was not allowed to drive himself home.

The 66-year-old voluntarily took leave of the Conservative caucus while the charge is resolved. Goldring is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 25.

Goldring declined an interview request Tuesday.

When a member of Parliament leaves a caucus, he or she notifies the Speaker's office and can decide how to be described if a particular designation is desired other than being listed only as an independent MP.

Goldring will be treated as an independent MP when the House of Commons resumes on Jan. 30, unless he re-joins the Conservative caucus before then.

Goldring was first elected as a Reform MP in 1997, then was a member of the Canadian Alliance. He had sat as a Conservative since 2004.

Goldring's website has not been updated to reflect his new status and still includes news releases from the Conservative government, but the House of Commons lists the change in his caucus affiliation effective Dec. 5.

In an article he wrote on his website in 2009, Goldring calls a proposal by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the House of Commons justice committee to require roadside screening of drivers "disturbing" and cites civil liberties as one of his concerns.

He questions how far enforcement measures should go in trying to prevent drunk driving. "It is safe to say everyone is opposed to drunk driving — but there are civil liberty issues involved," he writes. He goes on to question whether random roadside testing could be challenged in court as an unreasonable search and seizure.

Goldring is currently the only independent MP not affiliated with a registered political party in the House of Commons. (Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, and four Bloc Québécois MPs do not have enough seats for official party status.)

In the last Parliament, Helena Guergis listed herself as an Independent Conservative after she left the Conservative caucus amid controversy and unspecified allegations in April 2010. Guergis was not allowed back into the caucus even after the RCMP cleared her of any wrongdoing. No allegations against her were ever proven and she is now suing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party of Canada, MP Shelly Glover and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, among others.

Guergis ran as an independent candidate Ontario's Simcoe-Grey riding in the 2011 election and was defeated by the new Conservative candidate, Kellie Leitch.