N.S. politician convicted, booted from caucus
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, December 18, 2007 5:34PM EST
A former provincial cabinet minister in Nova Scotia has been found guilty of failing to remain at the scene of an accident.
Judge Bill Digby imposed an $800 fine on Ernie Fage on Tuesday. With the 15 per cent victim surcharge, Fage will have to pay a total of $920.
"I welcomed the opportunity to give my side of the story in court," Fage, 54, told reporters afterward, although he said he was disappointed with the verdict.
The accident occurred shortly after midnight on Nov. 24, 2006, in downtown Halifax. Fage left the scene after about 20 minutes.
Fage told his three-day trial he left the scene because he "felt very threatened" by the actions and words of witness David Gamble.
"I obviously did not leave the scene of the accident. There were a lot of circumstances surrounding it," Fage said.
However, other witnesses -- including George Myrer, the man whose vehicle got rear-ended in the accident -- testified that Fage appeared drunk.
Fage denied the allegation, saying he only had three glasses of wine over a five-to six-hour period and wasn't impaired.
The judge didn't accept Fage's explanation about why he left the scene. Digby stated, "In considering all the evidence, it's beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Fage left the scene of the accident to escape criminal liability."
Three witnesses, including provincial NDP Leader Darrell Dexter and CTV Atlantic news anchor Steve Murphy, testified they had seen Fage drinking earlier at a local pub.
The provincial legislature had just completed the final day of its fall sitting.
Fage currently represents the Cumberland North constituency as an Independent and said after the decision that he will seek re-election.
He stepped down as human resources minister in the Progressive Conservative government on Jan. 4, 2007, after TV reports showed cellphone video and photos of him taken by Gamble.
Fage waited seven days before reporting the accident to police and only did so after receiving legal advice. Legally, he should have exchanged information with the other driver and informed the police within 24 hours.
Premier Rodney MacDonald said he first heard about the crash on Dec. 4, 2006, but didn't learn any details until Jan. 4.
After the verdict, Premier Rodney MacDonald dismissed his friend and supporter from caucus.
"I made a decision today to expell the member from Cumberland North -- Ernie Fage -- from the Progressive Conservative caucus. That is supported by my caucus colleagues. He will not be our candidate in the upcoming election," MacDonald said.
Fage has been a source of grief for the Tories in the past. He was forced to resign as economic development minister in February 2006 over failure to disclose a conflict of interest.
A potato farm in line for a $250,000 loan from Fage's department rented land from Fage's family.
However, MacDonald reappointed Fage to cabinet following the June 2006 provincial election -- one in which the Conservatives won a minority government.