05/03/2012 04:30 EDT | Updated 07/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Former Nova Scotia cabinet minister pleads not guilty in spending scandal

HALIFAX - A former Nova Scotia Liberal cabinet minister pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of fraud, breach of trust and uttering forged documents in the province's spending scandal.

Russell MacKinnon was one of four Nova Scotia politicians charged in February 2011 following an investigation into constituency allowance spending.

He appeared in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax to enter his plea Thursday and set a court date of March 12, 2013, for his five-day trial.

Defence lawyer Joel Pink said MacKinnon is accused of taking "much less" money than former fellow Liberal Dave Wilson, who was sentenced last month to nine months in jail for defrauding the public purse of $61,000 to feed a gambling addiction.

"We've maintained that Mr. MacKinnon is not guilty on the charges," Pink said outside court. "Each case is different."

Former Tory cabinet minister Richard Hurlburt pleaded guilty last month to fraud and breach of trust. He has a sentencing hearing in July.

A preliminary hearing is set to begin in June for Independent member Trevor Zinck, who is charged with fraud over $5,000, breach of trust and theft over $5,000.