A key member of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall's government who oversaw the province's liquor and gaming authority has resigned from cabinet after announcing he's been charged with impaired driving.
Don McMorris, who is the deputy premier, said he was charged Friday after slowing down at a construction zone east of Regina near White City, where he said he was pulled over by RCMP.
McMorris told reporters at the legislature on Saturday that he spoke with Premier Brad Wall, who accepted his resignation.
He said he will also leave the Saskatchewan Party's caucus while he deals with the legal aspects of the matter and seeks counselling.
"There are no words to describe how sorry I am to my family, to my colleagues and to all the people of the province of my actions. They are absolutely unacceptable," McMorris said.
"I should have never got behind the wheel after drinking. I know better. I absolutely know better. I take responsibility for my actions."
McMorris did not answer when asked by a reporter at the media availability what his blood-alcohol level was.
"Today is to say I'll be resigning from cabinet. There will be legal matters that will take place in due course," McMorris said.
Wall issued a short statement expressing his disappointment with McMorris.
"Drinking and driving risks and ruins lives and is completely unacceptable," Wall said.
"I respect that Don has taken full responsibility for his actions and I support his decision to step away from caucus and seek counselling."
An RCMP spokesman said on Saturday that police were not immediately prepared to release any information on the allegations against McMorris.
Wall said he will be naming an interim minister Monday.
McMorris was the minister of Crown investments and was also the minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, the government's publicly owned automobile insurer.
In May, Saskatchewan Government Insurance launched an ad campaign against impaired driving, which noted that in 2014 there were more than 1,100 collisions where alcohol or drug use was a factor, resulting in 61 deaths and 541 injuries.
Charles Smith, an associate professor of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan, said the timing is poor for the Sask Party government, which has enjoyed high popularity during its time in office. A minister being charged with impaired driving is bad, Smith said, but it comes on the heels of a pipeline spill last month into the North Saskatchewan River where Wall's response appeared slow.
"It starts to look like a government that's struggling a little bit. And I think that's just bad news all around for the government," Smith said.
On top of that, Smith said McMorris is a key member of Wall's inner circle and was overseeing a promise by Wall to privatize some liquor sales.
The province announced last November that it was selling 40 of its 75 government-owned liquor outlets and adding 12 private retail stores across the province.
MADD Canada said last year that it opposed plans to privatize liquor sales in Saskatchewan because it would make alcohol more accessible.
"We have serious concerns about privatization of alcohol and it's an embarrassment, and should be an embarrassment, to this government to have a minister responsible for it charged with impaired driving," Andrew Murie of MADD Canada said.
"Fortunately he didn't kill anyone and he didn't hurt himself, but he could have."
Impaired driving became an issue in Saskatchewan's provincial election this past spring when Wall defended three of his party's candidates who had drunk driving convictions.
Wall said at the time that the convictions were many years ago and the candidates fully disclosed them. The most recent of the convictions was 15 years ago.
The NDP also admitted during the campaign that two of its candidates had impaired driving convictions.
McMorris said he has indicated many times that drinking and driving is dangerous and unacceptable, which is why the government has strengthened laws and penalties to combat it.
"One incident is too many, and I'm that one incident," he said.
Smith said the charge could be devastating for McMorris's political career.
"If he's convicted of drinking and driving, it's going to be very difficult for the government to keep him on in any capacity."