Dartmouth North MLA Trevor Zinck claims the NDP booted him out of the party because it feared he would vote against the budget, not because of expense irregularities.

The NDP “indefinitely suspended” Zinck Thursday after it found five cases of him expensing bills he had never actually paid. The party handed the information over to the speaker’s office for investigation.

But Zinck said he believes he was kicked out because of rumours he would flip to another party or vote against the upcoming budget.

“I could, potentially, make a move that would embarrass the premier. So, politically, what do you do? You eliminate that possibility. It happens, and unfortunately today it’s happened to me,” he told Metro.

Zinck admitted to gambling and alcohol problems last fall. He said transitioning to the role of NDP backbencher, his ailing father’s health, and an overwhelming workload wore him down.

“The premier didn’t come out and support me on a very important issue that got me on the front page. My father was ill, I had nobody in the office, stress built up. I began to drink more and that became a problem for me,” he said.

“So I started seeing counselling, which I still do today.”

Zinck said he fell behind payments because he was “moving around money,” by putting off paying bills he expensed in order to give that money to a needy constituent or pay a more immediate bill. He said he would later repay the original charge out of his salary.

He promised to repay all his outstanding bills.

Zinck said serving as an independent will give him his voice back.

“In a way, I feel kind of free,” he said.

Dexter said he never talked to Zinck about whether he would vote against the budget and the gambling and drinking were not factors in the decision.

“When asked whether or not he had a gambling or a drinking problem, he said he did not,” Dexter said.

The NDP caucus met Wednesday evening to discuss Zinck’s situation. He had a chance to defend himself, but Dexter said his excuses weren’t adequate.

“We felt that in the circumstances that the caucus simply didn’t continue to have confidence in the member in relation to these matters,” he said.

Zinck made calls to both the Tories and Liberals Thursday morning, but denied he was looking to join either party. Conservative Leader Karen Casey said of the call, “I think he was just looking for a friend.”

Speaker Charlie Parker said the missed payments add up to a few thousand dollars over the last few months. While Zinck is the third MLA to leave their parties in recent weeks, his issues do not stem from the auditor general’s report.

First elected in 2006, Trevor Zinck served as an NDP backbencher. He appeared in the news last fall when he agreed to supervise convicted child abuser Kevin Bernard Kosinsky’s prison release. At the time, Premier Darrell Dexter said he would not have done that. Thursday, Zinck said Dexter’s comments made him feel “ostracized.”