Mar 162013
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Former Cabinet minister's last minute plea bargain saves him from jail time.

by Stephen Kimber

On Friday — after four days of a scheduled five-day trial and in the middle of his own credulity-stretching testimony — Russell MacKinnon caved, signed a hastily cobbled together one-page written statement of agreed facts and copped to a plea of a breach of the public trust.

By the end of the day and after an apology that wasn’t (“I would like to apologize for allowing the matter to come this far”) MacKinnon managed to walk away from it all with no jail time. Just a ruler-to-the-knuckles eight-month conditional sentence.

Huh?  Let’s recap.

In 2006, MLA MacKinnon submitted $3,400 in receipts for work done by constituency secretary Nicole Campbell. The problem: Campbell never did the work and never received the money. MacKinnon did. He also submitted $7,500 in receipts for work done by George MacKeigan, his executive assistant. Again, MacKeigan never saw the cash; MacKinnon kept it.

Even after his former aids declined to cover for him, MacKinnon still had the audacity to take up valuable court time with his far-fetched versions and that-never-happened stories.

Four years later — after an auditor general’s report triggered an investigation that led Canada Revenue Agency to issue T4A slips to MacKinnon’s former aides for the payments they’d never been paid — the whole sordid mess unraveled.

At that point, MacKinnon doubled down on his deceit, showing up on the doorsteps of his former aides with cash peace offerings to make his wrongs right.  Even after that didn’t wash, MacKinnon still had the audacity to take up valuable court time with his far-fetched versions and that-never-happened stories.

What was he thinking? That he could baffle, buffalo, bamboozle past way too many inconvenient contradictions from too many witnesses with too little to gain to lie about what he’d done? That the law wouldn’t apply to him because he’d been an MLA and Liberal cabinet minister?

Until late Thursday when his wife, NDP MLA Michele Raymond, and his lawyer, Joel Pink, decided Judge Felix Cacchione wasn’t buying the soap MacKinnon was selling.

“You watch your client, you watch the body language of the judge and you try to make a determination as to how the judge is reacting to the evidence,” Pink explained later.

Deal time.

Russell MacKinnon should have gone to jail.  Not so much for what he did. But for what he didn’t do. Apologize. And take real responsibility for his actions. Pity.

About Stephen Kimber

Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax. He is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster.

His writing has appeared in almost all major Canadian publications including Canadian Geographic, Financial Post Magazine, Maclean's, En Route, Chatelaine, Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post. He has written one novel — Reparations — and six non-fiction books. Website:

© Copyright 2013 Stephen Kimber, All rights Reserved. Written For:

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