By Andrew Macdonald
The Macdonald Notebook recently carried an exclusive story that former Liberal premier Iain Rankin only told party leader Stephen McNeil about the first of two infractions for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
As we reported months ago, this was the reason former premier McNeil did not campaign with Rankin during his election effort last summer.
McNeil even stayed away from a Rankin political appearance in his own Annapolis riding.
McNeil did not want to answer journalists whether he knew about two DUI files when Rankin was 20 and later charged when he was 22 for drinking and driving.
McNeil did campaign for Zach Churchill’s 2021 Yarmouth election and made video endorsements for Churchill, who won the seat handdly and is now gunning to become Liberal leader at a vote to be decided today, Saturday July 9th.
As The Notebook also recently multiple sources are reporting that Rankin did not disclose his two DUI infractions to McNeil’s former chair of his transition team in 2017. That chair is well-known venture capitalist Tom Hayes.
As chief of the McNeil transition team, Hayes was granted the power to interview Liberal MLAs for cabinet, both in 2013 and 2017.
Rankin went into cabinet in 2017 and was interviewed by Hayes.
Now, multiple sources tell me, Hayes was only aware of one DUI – not the second DUI charge, of which Rankin was not convicted due to a cour technicality.
One of several sources tells The Notebook: “I have now heard that Rankin did not disclose the two DUIs to Tom Hayes, who was chair of the transition team in both 2013 and 2017 and who did the vetting of cabinet ministers.
“I have heard that Hayes was not happy to learn years later that Rankin had kept the second DUI and civil case secret when he was interviewed by Hayes for cabinet after the 2017 election. In fact, it is possible it would have disqualified him from consideration for cabinet at that time.”
I asked Hayes about this tip, and he declined to comment, saying his transition work and interviews with MLAs for cabinet posts was conducted with the utmost of confidentiality.
Still, Hayes did not dismiss the report as untrue.
Last July, Rankin disclosed the first DUI matter during a COVID briefing as then Premier of NS.
At the time, CBC reported: “Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin on Monday publicly acknowledged he was twice charged with impaired driving nearly two decades ago.
“This is something that is well known amongst my family, my circle of friends, and my community. And I want all Nova Scotians to hear it from me,” he said at a COVID-19 briefing,” as reported by CBC.
“Rankin was charged in 2003, when he was 20, with impaired driving and driving with a blood-alcohol content over the legal limit, according to court documents. He was fined and his licence was suspended for a year,” said the media report.
“Two years later, when he was 22, he was charged again with impaired driving offences, although the case was ultimately dismissed, according to court records”, said the media outlet.
“I make no excuses for my behaviour. I was wrong, and I made a bad decision. I’m very very sorry for my actions half a lifetime ago. I was selfish, it has not happened since,” said Rankin, 38.
CBC also noted: “Rankin said of the 2005 charges that he was “eventually found to be innocent.” He did not elaborate.
“Court records indicate, however, that following a trial he was found guilty of impaired driving, and not guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit.
“He was sentenced to 14 days in jail to be served on weekends. He was also handed a two-year driving prohibition and a year’s probation that included the condition that he attend substance abuse assessment and counselling as directed by a probation officer.
“His conviction was overturned on appeal on January 9, 2007, and a retrial was ordered. The Crown offered no evidence, and the charge was dismissed, according to court records,” said CBC.
The CBC also reported: “Rankin said he disclosed the charges to then-premier Stephen McNeil, and the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, when he first ran in the riding of Timberlea-Prospect in 2013, and again when he decided last fall to run for the Liberal leadership.”
But my sources tell The Notebook that neither McNeil nor Hayes were told by Rankin of the second DUI.
As for my recent story on former Premier McNeil not being told by Rankin of the second DUI, here is an encore presentation of this article, which ran several months ago in The Notebook weeks ago:
Topic: MacPolitics: Sources Report Iain Rankin Did Not Tell Stephen McNeil Of His Two DUIs
Outgoing Liberal leader Iain Rankin is silent after The Notebook asked him if he told former Liberal leader Stephen McNeil of his two drinking under the influence charges as a 20-year-old and 22-year-old.
I asked Rankin if he disclosed the two DUIs, sending email questions to his private email address. I sent the questions on April 2. There has been no response from Rankin on those questions.
It is more than likely he lost the election over the disclosure of the two DUI infractions; Rankin blew a 30 per cent lead in polls to lose last summer’s election to victorious Tory leader Tim Houston by 7,500 votes.
Various sources are now reporting to The Notebook that Rankin only disclosed one DUI charge to McNeil in 2013. That one charge was a conviction. He did not disclose the second DUI conviction, which he appealed and on a technicality was acquitted of the second DUI infraction.
But according to multiple sources, Rankin did not tell McNeil of the second DUI matter.
As for the charges, his 2021 campaign team had not been made aware of the previous DUI charges, and one conviction. News of the DUI charges were leaked to media a week before the summertime election campaign was issued.
I have recently reported that McNeil, who was a two-term premier, did not campaign with Rankin last summer.
The reason, report sources, is because McNeil did not want to be questioned by media on whether he knew of the two DUI charges.
In an April 2, 2022, email sent to Rankin’s personal email address, I asked if he disclosed the two DUI charges to McNeil, . He has not responded over the last few weeks.
I also asked Rankin: “I am intrigued that McNeil did not appear on campaign stops with you last summer during the election campaign, and I hear from sources he did not want to be in a position to tell media he only heard of one DUI issue, so he avoided appearing with you on campaign stops.
“I have multiple sources who tell me you only disclosed to McNeil in 2013 the one DUI issue not the two DUI matters. I am running a story on this fact. If you wish to comment, you can call,” I said in my message to Rankin. There has been stone silence since I sent that April 2nd email message to Rankin.
For a recent story on McNeil not appearing on campaign stops with Rankin, here is that story:
MacPolitics: Why Stephen McNeil Did Not Campaign With Iain Rankin
Looking back at last summer’s provincial election, which Liberal Iain Rankin lost by 7,500 votes, not once did former premier Stephen McNeil make any campaign appearances with Rankin.
Did you, Dear Reader, also notice McNeil did not appear in photos with Rankin or attend campaign rallies with Rankin.
Not even when Rankin went campaigning in the former premier’s home of Annapolis County did McNeil join him on the campaign stops.
McNeil did make campaign stops with Liberal candidates and appeared in campaign videos, including a video for the nomination event for Yarmouth’s Zach Churchill.
The reason for McNeil’s absence with Rankin is rooted with the two Rankin ‘driving under influence’ charges. Sources report Rankin only disclosed one conviction as a 20-year-old to McNeil during his candidate vetting process in 2013.
Rankin reportedly did not disclose a second charge at age 22 that was dropped on a technicality.
McNeil knew that was a problem. If he appeared in public with Rankin and was asked by the media what he knew he would have to tell the truth, that he only knew about one.
So the only recourse was to avoid being in a situation where he might be asked. He didn’t want to hurt Rankin but he also was not going to lie to protect him.
McNeil is a person of integrity and Rankin had left him in a difficult position.
It meant that Rankin lost the very public support of McNeil when it might have made a difference in the election outcome.
The central Liberal campaign lost one of its best assets, the very popular former premier Stephen McNeil.