POLITICS

Question of mental health again delays sentencing for ex-Nova Scotia politician

08/16/2013 11:59 EDT | Updated 10/16/2013 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - A former Nova Scotia politician who pleaded guilty in Nova Scotia's spending scandal said Friday he was still trying to find an expert's opinion on his mental health as his sentencing hearing was delayed for a second time.

Trevor Zinck said he has been trying to determine whether he has compassion fatigue since the hearing was first delayed last week in the province's Supreme Court.

"Compassion fatigue is fairly new to psychotherapists here," Zinck said outside of court. "That's been part of the frustration over the past week was trying to actually get someone who's actually practising compassion fatigue training."

Zinck pleaded guilty in June to fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust for accepting about $9,000 from the Speaker's Office to cover constituency expenses in 2008 and 2009, even though he didn't pay those owed money.

Sentencing arguments in the case were to resume on Sept. 19. But Zinck's lawyer, Lyle Howe, told Supreme Court Judge Glen MacDougall on Friday he needs more time to find potential experts. MacDougall also had a scheduling conflict that required the date for Zinck's sentencing to be moved.

The hearing is now scheduled for Oct. 1. MacDougall said Howe must submit any reports from experts to the court and Crown by Sept. 6.

A fact sheet on the ALS Society of Canada's website says compassion fatigue occurs when caregivers or professionals begin to feel the pain and suffering of the people for whom they care.

Zinck said the idea that he may be suffering from the condition was brought to him nearly three years ago. But Howe said he wasn't approached by Zinck about it until "quite shortly before the sentence date" on Aug. 7.

That in itself is a symptom of compassion fatigue, Zinck said.

"Part of the diagnosis is you put off taking care of yourself," he said. "If you look at what has taken place in the last number of years and to my particular case, it's always been about keeping your head above water, keeping focused on the job and helping the people.

"The judge is the person who's going to make a decision on my future and I want him to have as much information and knowledge as to who I really am as possible before he makes that decision."

MacDougall said he wouldn't tolerate any more delays in the case, which has been before the courts for more than two and a half years.

"This matter should get back on the rails," he said.

The Crown in the case has said it will seek jail time for Zinck. But Howe said that's unwarranted.

"I think part of the focus here needs to be rehabilitation," said Howe. "Obviously sending somebody to jail in my opinion under these circumstances isn't going to rehabilitate Mr. Zinck. It's not going to help society."

Zinck, who sat as an Independent, initially refused to quit politics following his guilty plea but resigned after the Speaker announced the legislature would be recalled to deal with his possible expulsion.

Three other former politicians have also pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges that stemmed from a 2010 investigation by the province's auditor general into constituency allowance spending.

Zinck was first elected as an NDP member in 2006 and re-elected in 2009.

With speculation that the NDP is on the verge of calling an election, Zinck said he plans to run in the Dartmouth area of Halifax, although his primary focus is the court case.

"I'm receiving a lot of encouragement, a lot of support," he said. "People that know of me and know the work I do understand where I'm at right now and really hope to see me move beyond this point. That's what I'm trying to do."