Former Tory MP who led anti-drug campaign charged with cocaine possession

OTTAWA - The former chairman of the Conservative caucus who was featured in anti-drug campaign ads is facing charges of cocaine possession and drunk driving.

OTTAWA - The former chairman of the Conservative caucus who was featured in anti-drug campaign ads is facing charges of cocaine possession and drunk driving.

Former Edmonton MP Rahim Jaffer, husband of federal Tory cabinet minister Helena Guergis, was arrested in the wee hours of last Friday morning by Ontario Provincial Police in the village of Palgrave, north of Toronto.

A police report indicated that the officer who stopped a speeding SUV at about 12:45 a.m. could smell alcohol on the breath of the driver.

Jaffer has been charged with driving while over the legal blood-alcohol limit and with possession of cocaine.

His licence has been suspended for 90 days and he is to appear in court in Orangeville, Ont., on Oct. 19.

Jaffer did not respond to several requests for comment.

Guergis, a junior minister responsible for women's issues, issued a brief statement saying "I take this very seriously. I love my husband. I will wait for further information before I make any comment."

Jaffer, 37, was MP for the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona from 1997 until a surprise defeat in last year's election to the NDP's Linda Duncan.

Days before the vote, Jaffer's campaign approved radio ads chiding NDP Leader Jack Layton for comments years earlier that Jaffer cast as broad support for marijuana use.

The spots said, in part: "Edmontonians understand how difficult it is to make sure our children make the right choices, especially on serious issues like drug use. The Conservative Party supports drug-free schools and getting tough with drug dealers who sell illegal drugs to children. Don't let our schools go up in smoke. On October 14th vote Conservative."

Jaffer was born in Kampala, Uganda, and immigrated to Edmonton with his family as a boy to escape persecution under the iron-fist rule of Idi Amin.

He was just 25 when he first arrived in Parliament as an MP. He was telegenic, articulate, personable and immediately seen as a rising star in his party. But his early years in office were not without controversy.

Jaffer offered an emotional apology in the House of Commons in 2001 after one of his aides, Matthew Johnston, was caught impersonating him on a radio show while Jaffer was busy elsewhere.

After several months in the political wood shed, Jaffer was re-elected in 2006 and named Conservative caucus chairman by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Jaffer was staying in Angus, Ont., in his wife's southern Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey when his vehicle was pulled over.

The gregarious MP was a regular on the Ottawa party scene before romance blossomed with Guergis. They were married last Oct. 15 - one day after the federal election.

Jaffer's defeat the day before at the hands of Duncan gave the NDP the only seat in Alberta not held by the federal Conservatives. Party brass privately grumbled that he did not work hard enough in a riding that should have been theirs. When the time came to nominate the Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona riding, Jaffer was not encouraged to run. Party officials quietly urged a former PMO assistant to Harper's chief of staff to seek the nomination there.

Jaffer recently worked for Green Power Generation Corporation, which helps bring alternative energy technologies to market.

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