INNISFAIL – Shock and disbelief have rocked the riding of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake following news last week that former MLA Don MacIntyre has been charged with sexual assault and sexual interference against a minor.
“Total shock. Dismay. Disbelief,” said Mary Flemming, an Innisfail resident and MacIntyre’s chief financial officer in the 2015 provincial election. “The ripple effect is terrible because it touches so many people. He was a public figure.”
“Of course there’s sympathy for whoever this is (allegedly) perpetrated against,” she added, noting she believes it won’t hurt the United Conservative Party (UCP) or its chances in the next election.
“I have talked to people in the party and we feel we’re above it because he’s one person,” she said. “I think people are smart enough to see this was an individual thing. It blew everybody away.”
MacIntyre abruptly resigned from the UCP caucus Feb. 2 and resigned his seat Feb. 5. It was not immediately known why he resigned.
While MacIntyre was in provincial court on Feb. 1 to face criminal charges, the details of the offences were not publicly known due to a court-ordered publication ban. The ban was lifted in Red Deer on Feb. 9 following an application before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Glen Poelman.
The hearing included Crown prosecutor Peter Mackenzie, a lawyer representing the United Conservative Party and Edmonton lawyer Fred Kozak, who was retained by CTV News, CBC, Edmonton Journal and Global News.
MacIntyre was not present for the hearing but was represented by counsel.
Kozak said the argument against the publication ban was that the court system was open and transparent, with the latter providing the public with confidence the legal system is operating properly.
“And that there are exceptions to that but the name of the accused isn’t one of those exceptions,” said Kozak, following the hearing.
Kozak noted there is still a publication ban on publishing or broadcasting any information that would lead to the identity of the alleged victim. Under the Criminal Code, the sexual interference charge relates to victims under the age of 16.
“I think this is the right result and it was nice to have Justice Poelman make a strong statement on how important an open judicial system is,” he said.
“The media makes decisions each and every day about what they can and can’t publish when it comes to not identifying victims of sexual assault.”
In the meantime, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney released a statement immediately following the court’s lifting of the publication ban.
“I was shocked and disgusted to learn of the serious criminal charges filed against former MLA Don MacIntyre,” said Kenney. “There are few crimes more vile than sexual crimes against children, and those found guilty of it deserve to endure the most severe legal consequences possible.”
Penhold councillor Mike Walsh is seeking the UCP nomination for the next election and declined comment on Feb. 9.
“I’m not going to comment on anything,” said Walsh, adding that he does not think the situation will impact the UCP in the next general election.
“They are quite serious allegations,” he said. “This is a non-partisan issue as far as I’m concerned.”
Lee Eddy, the current UCP Innisfail-Sylvan Lake constituency association president, said while constituency association members were shocked to hear of the allegations against MacIntyre they are committed to the upcoming byelection to choose a new representative for the riding.
“Definitely there’s shock. It’s always sad when kids are affected,” said Eddy, noting that while the issue was briefly discussed at a recent board meeting, association members remain focused.
“We do not have time to dwell on that topic because we have a byelection to prepare for.”
MacIntyre’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 15 at Red Deer provincial court.
With files from Johnnie Bachusky
Mary Flemming, former provincial election campaign worker for Don MacIntyre.
“I have talked to people in the party and we feel we’re above it because he’s one person. I think people are smart enough to see this was an individual thing. It blew everybody away.”