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PM breaks silence on Edmonton MP facing drunk-driving charge

Edmonton MP Peter Goldring, who left the Conservative caucus after being charged with failing to take a breathalyzer, speaks in the House of Commons on on Nov. 21, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has lost a caucus member but he doesn't seem overly concerned.

Peter Goldring, the Conservative who was first elected as a Reform MP in 1997 in the riding of Edmonton East, changed his House of Commons affiliation this week to Civil Libertarian as a result of being charged in December with refusing to provide a roadside breath sample to police looking for drunk drivers.

The Prime Minister's Office said at that time that Mr. Goldring had voluntarily withdrawn from the Conservative caucus because the party takes the issue of drunk driving seriously.

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"Mr. Goldring left the caucus around the particular incident that's been in the newspapers," Mr. Harper told reporters Friday in Edmonton. "That will continue to be the case until this issue is resolved."

The Prime Minister said he would not comment on the specifics of the case.

"We are obviously anxious to see what the resolution is," he said. "There are still far too many accidents and fatalities in this country that occur because of that problem. And so this is an issue that we consider one of our highest priorities."

Alberta is in the midst of a heated debate about toughening its drunk driving legislation and Ottawa created a stir when it proposed roadside screening for any driver, even if police do not have a reason to believe they have consumed alcohol.

Two years ago, Mr. Goldring described random breath-analysis tests, a proposal backed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as "disturbing." A missive, posted on his website on Dec. 1, 2009, said the ability of police to ask for breath samples of suspected impaired drivers during check stops should be sufficient to make the roads safer.

A conviction for refusing a breathalyzer carries a minimum $1,000 fine and up to five years in jail as well as a potential further driving prohibition.

With files from Dawn Walton in Calgary

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