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Former Tory MP to plead 'not guilty' after refusing roadside breath test

Peter Goldring has represented Edmonton East for the Tories since 1997.

Stephen MacGillivray/The Canadian Press

Long-time Edmonton MP Peter Goldring will plead not guilty to a charge of refusing to provide a breath sample, one laid in the early morning hours after a party at which he claims he drank one beer.

He also described the fallout from his Dec. 4 incident as "terrible," hinting both that he'll argue he was targeted by police and suggesting he won't be seeking re-election.

Mr. Goldring, 67, appeared in Edmonton court Wednesday, but his case was delayed as his lawyer waits for more evidence to be released.

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The veteran MP, who has identified himself as a civil libertarian and spoken out against random breath samples in the past, was at a constituency party that evening. He would not say why he was pulled over, saying it was "part and parcel" of his legal argument.

"Although I was not impaired by alcohol, the police officer demanded that I provide a roadside breath sample at the time because I admitted to having recently consumed a very small amount of alcohol - one beer. I did not provide the breath sample and the reasons for that will be presented in a court of law and not in advance. I only ask that I not be judged until such time," Mr. Goldring told a throng of reporters and TV cameras outside the Edmonton courthouse.

"I wish to reiterate the fact that I was not charged with impaired driving in this incident and, simply put, I was not under the influence of any alcohol or intoxicating substance... I also want the public to know that I take this matter very, very seriously."

Mr. Goldring was first elected in 1997 in a riding known now as Edmonton East. He's a veteran Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative MP who has sat as an Independent (and briefly, due to what he says was an error, as a Civil Libertarian) since he was charged. In a visit to Edmonton earlier this month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Mr. Goldring continue to stay out of the Conservative caucus - which continues to push its tough-on-crime agenda - "until this issue is resolved."

Mr. Goldring told reporters he wouldn't drive again after having one beer.

"We read about and hear about, for example, MADD they say, 'oh go ahead have one drink with your dinner, have two drinks with your dinner.' They are wrong. Because this obviously is a very, very important message to put out to the public... This is to help them so that people do not fall into situations that they just do not expect or understand," Mr. Goldring said.

He also hinted that, after the next election, he wouldn't run again, saying the process has been emotionally taxing on him, his family and his supporters. "I think this is a learning experience, and I fully intend to, as I say, make lemonade out of these lemons...," he said, later adding: "I've been elected six times. I'm 67 years old. My understanding is we have a majority government that'll be going for three, four years. You judge yourself whether I really should be running at the age of 71. I'm not making that decision right now. That will be faced. But you know, folks, I mean, 71 years old, 18 years in parliament, six times elected, seven times nominated. What more else is there to do?"

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Since being charged, he had spoken only to an Edmonton radio station, keeping a low profile before his court appearance Wednesday. His lawyer, but not Mr. Goldring, is scheduled to appear in Edmonton court again on Feb. 15 and expected a trial to be set for one or two days in the fall.

"Once we complete the disclosure process, Mr. Goldring fully intends to plead not guilty to the charge and set the matter down for trial," lawyer Dino Bottos said. He also advised Mr. Goldring not to discuss the details of the evening, including why he was pulled over. "The reasons belong to the police officer, not to Mr. Goldring," Mr. Bottos said.

A conviction for refusing to provide a breath sample carries a minimum $1,000 fine, driving penalties and up to five years in jail.

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