Saskatchewan voters not swayed by candidates past DUI convictions

Lorie Matthewson lost her daughter to impaired driving in 2011. As a voter, she says it is important for Saskatchewan leaders to set an example by accepting responsibility and learning from their past mistakes. Photo by Mattea Columpsi.

As Lorie Matthewson sipped from her tea, she reminisced on the memory of her daughter Emily.

“Emily was quite vivacious and was often doing silly things and making us laugh a lot,” said Matthewson.

“She was friendly, easy-going and had a very big heart that could make people feel like they were the only person in the room.”

Nine years ago in the early morning hours of April 30, 2011, 18-year-old Emily Matthewson and a 17-year-old junior hockey player, were in a fatal car crash on Springbank Road, east of Highway 22 near Calgary.

“The speed limit was 90 but they were going 182 kilometers an hour,” said Matthewson. “They hit a dip in the road and the car went airborne.

“There was a field beside them. They went through the fenceposts and the car tumbled over and over. He was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected from the car. He survived. She had her seatbelt on and was strapped in. He pulled her out of the car and ran to get help at a nearby farm house. Once the authorities came they pronounced her dead on the scene.”

The charges of impaired driving were dropped but the hockey player pled guilty to a charge of dangerous driving.

Impaired driving has been a major issue in Saskatchewan for years. With the provincial election underway, the Saskatchewan Party chose to disclose that six of its candidates – including Premier Scott Moe –  have been convicted of impaired driving. The offences dated back from 1978 to 2016.

“There had been some people that disclosed [their pasts] last time, so it is not unprecedented.” said Jim Farney, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Regina.

“For transparency purposes, the parties came out and they said, ‘This is the history of our candidates.’ It got a little bit of coverage but it certainly wasn’t unusual enough to be a big story.”

Knowing the candidates’ past criminal offences leads to a question: Will having this information affect how voters cast their ballot?

“I think there are two moving pieces,” said Farney. “One is, in this sort of event it usually doesn’t hurt. What hurts you is the cover up of whatever happened itself. So the question is does this amount to a cover up or not? That’s a bit squishy.

“But I think most people would hear it as probably not a cover up so there would be relatively little affect there. Moe had driving incidents in his past and he had been involved in a fatal accident which was known. I’m not sure more details around it would really affect people’s opinions of him.”

As someone who experienced the loss of a loved one to impaired driving, Matthewson does not believe having this information would sway her vote.

“We have all made mistakes and need to be forgiven,” said Matthewson. “I think at the very core of it, what he [Moe] has done does not make him a bad person. He made a mistake and sometimes the mistakes we make will affect people’s lives.

“Even the young man responsible for Emily’s death, I would like him to move on and have a relatively normal life. That’s when I am called to forgive, even though it is very hard to do because hopefully these people still have a lot to give.”

Voters who have not been directly affected by impaired driving have a similar view, looking beyond the criminal convictions. Instead, boiling down to a voters assessment and alignment of values.

“His [Moe’s] past is his past whether it is right or wrong,” said a long-time Saskatchewan resident, who did not want her name used. “I want to know who is the best candidate for what we need as a leader for issues that really matter.”

In the same realm, other voters believe if it is a one-time mistake, then they can look past it.

“I am very against drinking and driving but also understand people make mistakes,” said University of Regina Psychology student Tabatha Sander. “What is important to me is that it never happens again and that the parties’ social initiatives line up with mine.”

Matthewson agreed.

“If you hang on to the hatred you are really just hurting yourself more than someone else,” said Matthewson.

“If they keep doing it, that’s a different story.”

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