October 17, 2012
T.O. councillor to plead not guilty to drunk driving
By Don Peat, QMI Agency
TORONTO — MADD Canada is calling Toronto Coun. Ana Bailao's conduct in the wake of drunk driving charges "deplorable" while she vowed to plead not guilty.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada CEO Andy Murie blasted Bailao Wednesday -- the same day she gave a short statement to the media on her intentions to plead not guilty to impaired driving and having more than 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood.
"One of things that is really deplorable is her sort of attitude and conduct with the charges," Murie told QMI Agency Wednesday. "She's not taking this seriously -- she could have killed someone, she could have hurt herself. She's just playing, as I call it, political games here to make sure she retains her seat as a councillor and is trying gather anybody that will support her."
Bailao was charged by Toronto police early Tuesday morning.
"I want to be absolutely clear, these charges will in no way affect my ability to do the job I was elected to do," Bailao told reporters Wednesday. "I intend to plead not guilty. I assure you that I am taking these charges very seriously and I will continue to co-operate with the legal process.
"As you can appreciate, this is still being investigated and is before the courts. There is a process to be followed and out of respect for that process, my lawyer has advised me not to comment."
Choking back tears, Bailao thanked her constituents, colleagues, family and friends who have called and e-mailed to show her their support.
"I am confident I will be able to demonstrate their faith in me is not misplaced," she said. "I will continue to focus on my work to improve public housing, create a world-class transit system and be a strong, strong voice for the interests of Ward 18 residents."
Bailao wouldn't answer a question about how many drinks she had Monday night or where she had been before the arrest and ignored a question if she thought about getting in a cab that night.
Asked if she will stay in politics, Bailao said "what this will do, time will tell."
"I'm being as honest as I can possibly be," she said.
Murie dismissed Bailao's statement.
"By saying you're going to plead not guilty, her whole aim is to quiet down constituency outrage and continue as a councillor and hope this thing will go away," Murie said. "This is (public relations) 101 she is playing right now."
Several city councillors were in the press gallery during Bailao's statement including Councillors Doug Ford, Pam McConnell, Frances Nunziata, Mike Layton, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Paula Fletcher and Josh Colle.
Nunziata -- a member of the Toronto Police Services Board -- jumped to Bailao's defence, calling her an "amazing councillor."
"She works hard for her constituents ... and she will still continue to do the hard work that she has been doing," she said.
Coun. Ford also spoke up in defence of Bailao.
"Everyone makes mistakes and I'm confident that she is going to continue serving her constituents well," Ford said.
Asked if he's disappointed in Bailao, Ford shrugged.
"I look around the room here, I think we've all had a bad night," he said. "She had a bad night, she regrets it, she apologizes and I think it is time to move on now. I guess it is in the hands of the courts."
Coun. Fletcher called Bailao's charges a "very regrettable incident."
"I think that elected officials -- city, province, federal -- we get and we are required and invited to so many places where there is a lot of alcohol and I think this is a wake-up call for any elected official," she said. "We really are out in a lot of places, expected to have a great time but it is learning for everybody from this experience."
Fletcher said councillors joined Bailao at the announcement to say "we support her in her role as councillor."
Murie also blasted Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and councillors for defending Bailao. He stressed impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada.
"It is not a mistake and these charges are serious," Murie said.
"Think about Toronto -- subways, streetcars, buses, taxis on every corner -- no excuse," he added.
Murie pointed to former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell's impaired driving charge as an example of how politicians could deal with the issue properly.
"He got charged, big public embarrassment, he didn't go out and try to say it was a big accident, mistake," Murie said. "He said, 'Look I've been charged with impaired driving, shouldn't have done it, shouldn't have been driving, I'm going to plead guilty, I'm going to take counseling.' He went to a victim impact panel by survivors who lost people to impaired driving, took counseling, quit drinking and became an advocate for impaired driving legislation."