House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Supply
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the presentations of the two hon. members who just spoke. I think we can agree that currently in Canada doctors are providing excellent services.

We also know that the majority of these doctors are private entrepreneurs. They are paid a fee for service, and if they do not work, they are not remunerated. If they do work, they are. It is up to them to take care of their own fringe benefits.

My colleague is simply suggesting that we stop this type of practice in Canada and that all doctors should be salaried public workers. I wonder if we would receive better care that way. Would the cost be any different?

Supply
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I certainly think people who work in the profession feel that if we had doctors paid on a salaried basis, it would help matters. I worked in the department of health in the province of Saskatchewan before coming to this place. One thing the department was working on was exactly that. It was trying to get doctors off of a fee for service arrangement and onto an annual salary.

I am pleased to say that I belong to the Regina community clinic on Winnipeg Street in Regina. There are roughly half a dozen doctors there and they are all on a salaried basis. Progressive governments that are looking for choices on this would like to see more doctors on salary rather than on a fee for service basis so we can try to reign in some of the costs.

When Mr. Romanow was the premier of the province of Saskatchewan, he used to say that the province could spend 100% of its money on health care and it still would not be enough. Of course there had to be money to pay down the debt left over from Grant Devine and for education, roads and a number of other things. However, this has become a juggernaut over the last 10 years that has grabbed provinces like Saskatchewan and most others in the country, and it will not let go because of the rising costs.

I have less concern overall about the doctors on a fee for service basis than I have on private MRIs. Inevitably, built into those private MRIs will have to be a profit motive. That is our concern. We want to limit and reduce the for profit delivery rather than see it escalate in the years to come.

Supply
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I really have to wonder if the two members who spoke before are really from Saskatchewan. What I heard was incredible. They are talking about trying to debate health care. Health care is what we should be debating. All I heard was a rant. I do not believe they are really concerned about health care one iota. If they were, they would go home and try to access our health care. It is not always accessible to those with real health problems.

I can tell about a person who went in for a knee operation. He was quite healthy and was told to have both knees operated on at the same time. He had both done at the same time and never came out of the hospital. I can tell about a person who had to go back into the hospital to have a limb re-broken. What about the workmen's compensation patients who go to Calgary for MRIs because our province does not have an MRI machine available for Saskatchewan workmen's compensation clients?

That is why nobody wants to participate in this debate. It is sickening.

Supply
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, one hardly knows where to start on that. I would just repeat what I said a minute ago. When provinces are carrying 84¢ of the dollar and the federal government is only putting in 16¢, it is very difficult for provinces like Saskatchewan, with a million people and a small taxpayer base, to do all that.

However, perhaps the member for Blackstrap could make some of those approaches to the health minister across the way and point out some of the realities with which governments are dealing.

Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5:30 p.m., it is my duty to inform the House that proceedings on the motion have expired.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from March 24, consideration of the motion that Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceedings under section 258), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

May 11th, 2004 / 5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak to Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceedings under section 258).

The bill presents an important opportunity to strengthen the laws surrounding the investigation and prosecution of impaired driving and related offences. Too often individuals who choose to drive while drunk or otherwise impaired face no consequences. Even when they are caught, they can take advantage of technical loopholes to avoid justice.

My colleague's bill would eliminate some of these loopholes by giving the courts the ability to use blood or breath sample results as proof of the accused's blood alcohol content at the time of the alleged offences. The span of time during which a sample could be taken would also be increased to three hours from the current two.

These are positive changes that would correct earlier parliamentary oversights and make drunk drivers less likely to get away with their crimes. This is particularly important, because without intervention, impaired driving tends to be an oft-repeated crime with tremendous potential for tragic results. For example, impaired driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. Approximately 1,350 people die each year in alcohol related motor vehicle crashes. That is a death rate two to three times higher than the national murder rate. Another 200 people are injured each day in impaired driving related incidents.

Over the last 20 years, alcohol has been a contributing factor in 30% to 50% of fatal crashes. The social and human costs are staggering. From an economic perspective, Transport Canada estimates the annual cost associated with health care, damaged property and lost wages resulting from crashes involving alcohol in Canada exceeds $5 billion.

The need to implement legislative changes that could reduce the number of impaired drivers on our roads is particularly important to the people in my home province of Saskatchewan, which has a higher rate of drunken driving than any other province in Canada.

Given the figures hon. members have just heard, it is clear that we have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that authorities have the resources and legislative backing needed to successfully identify, charge and prosecute impaired drivers.

The member for Lakeland's bill addresses some important steps in achieving the goal. As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-452 would extend the time allowed for the taking of breath or blood samples from an accused in the investigation of an alleged offence from two to three hours. This would allow authorities more time to collect samples and could reduce the number of cases thrown out because the Crown chooses not to expend the resources necessary to have a toxicological expert verify results of samples not taken within the two hour timeframe.

The bill would also allow a court to use the results of the analysis of the sample, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, as proof that the concentration of alcohol in the accused's blood at the time of the alleged offence was not less than the concentration shown in the results. In cases where the accused challenged those results, he or she would face the eventual burden of establishing, on a balance of probabilities, factors that affect their reliability.

Finally, the bill would require a court to consider other evidence in deciding whether the accused had discharged the burden of proof. The courts have interpreted the Criminal Code in such a manner that breath or blood tests are often thrown out based solely on the accused's own testimony. Without the test results, the charges are usually dropped or the accused is acquitted.

Two of the main defences used by the accused are the Carter defence and the last drink defence. Hon. members may have heard these described in the House before, but they bear repeating.

The Carter defence is that the accused testifies that he or she had only a small amount to drink prior to the offence. The defence would call a toxicologist to confirm that the accused's blood alcohol content would definitely have been below the legal limit if such a small amount were consumed. If the court accepted the accused's evidence, the test results would be completely disregarded, even if they were administered properly, were consistent with the reading on the roadside screening device and were supported by the officer's evidence that the accused showed signs of intoxication.

The second is the last drink defence. The accused testifies that he or she consumed a large amount of alcohol immediately after driving. The contention is that this alcohol would not yet have been absorbed into the bloodstream when stopped by the police.

The accused argues that his or her blood alcohol content was below the legal limit when driving, and only rose above the limit in the interval between being stopped and being tested. Again, the breath results are rejected and the accused is acquitted.

What is the result? Despite an estimated 12.5 million impaired driving trips every year in Canada, the majority of offenders are not stopped by police and, even when they are stopped, officers do not press charges. Police officers do not believe their work will result in convictions because the laws are not strong enough.

A recent letter from MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice suggested that this group, who sadly know too well the potential consequences of impaired driving, supports the changes put forward by the member for Lakeland.

MADD National Executive Director Andrew Murie wrote: “It is now almost 20 years that the Carter defence has made a mockery of the Criminal Code's elaborate provisions designed to curtail the grave social problem posed by drinking drivers. Parliament's failure to respond meaningfully condones the undermining of the statutory provisions. Surely it stands as an indictment of the present government that amendments shown by experience to be necessary have been shirked to the extent that a private member must take it upon himself to fill the gap”.

This is an important bill that could save lives. By improving the odds that an impaired driver will face consequences for his or her actions, I believe we can reduce the number of drivers willing to take that chance. With impaired driving affecting so many Canadians each day, I encourage all members in the House to support this bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I notice an irony here. The NDP were chiding the official opposition, the Conservative Party, for not having speakers on a supply day motion that is non-votable, just a rhetorical gabfest in here right before an election campaign. Here we have Bill C-452 that will actually save lives if it is put in place and there is no New Democrat here to speak about it.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I must remind the hon. member that any mention of the absence of any member or members is not acceptable as a practice of the House.

Knowing the full pressures and responsibilities members have outside the Chamber, I would ask him to draw on that experience. I know the respect he has for the Chamber.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I do appreciate the rules and I did not want to allege that any New Democrats were not here but that the NDP are not going to put up any speakers in reference to the point that was made earlier.

I rise in support of this bill. I want to laud my colleague from Lakeland and certainly my colleague from Blackstrap who just spoke to the bill. Bill C-452 deserves the support of all members of the House because I am saddened to report that according to statistics, drunk driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada.

I am saddened in part because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was made law in 1982 and yet one of its most commonly cited sections, subsection 24(2), deals with the exclusion of evidence at, among others, drunk driving trials.

Approximately 40% of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol. Every day 4 Canadians die and another 200 are injured because someone had too much to drink and acted irresponsibly. Canadians know that drinking and driving is illegal; however, they also know that there are a surprising number of ways to get out of a drunk driving charge.

The last time this bill was discussed in Parliament, on March 24, 2004, the member for Provencher spoke of the tremendous difficulty in successfully prosecuting someone for drunk driving. I think that Canadians should know more about the member for Provencher because it is important to understand his background and the leverage with which he speaks to the issue.

Before ever setting foot in the House, the member for Provencher was a criminal prosecutor, the director of constitutional law for the Province of Manitoba, and later Manitoba's attorney general and minister of justice. When he talks about the Criminal Code, we should all listen.

When he spoke on Bill C-452 on March 24, he said that as a prosecutor he would rather have prosecuted a murderer than a drunk driver. He told us how frustrating it was to deal with the technical defences on how to avoid convictions under the Criminal Code. Quite frankly, he said it was easier to prosecute a murderer than it was to prosecute a drunk driver.

How difficult is it? In opposing Bill C-452, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, the Liberal responsible for this bill, told the House that “It is better that 99 people who committed the offence go free than one innocent person be convicted”.

If that is the Liberal vision of justice, we are nearly there. A recent B.C. study showed that only 11% of impaired drivers taken to hospital were ever convicted. Think about this. In what kind of circumstances is a drunk driver taken to hospital? There are only three that come to mind. One, he hit another vehicle; two, another vehicle hit him; or three, he hit an obstacle like a tree or a wall.

In situations one and three, one would think that if the drunk driver was drunk enough to hit another vehicle or an obstacle like a wall or a tree--drunk enough in order that he would have to go to hospital because of the injuries--that he would likely be drunk enough to be found guilty of drunk driving.

The fact that only 11% of these people are convicted of drunk driving tells us that there is something seriously wrong with our system. Clearly, we need to do something about it and I wish that the government would stop sending mixed signals to my generation.

Young Canadians are very aware of the “Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign. Those of us who are under 30 do not typically have a drink with lunch on a workday. The idea of a designated driver is common practice. We are opposed to drinking and driving, and we want to keep drunks off our roads.

When we hear the government has tabled legislation to deal with drug impaired driving, we are encouraged. We are happy to hear that Alberta has asked its prosecutors to seek dangerous offender status and long term offender designations for habitual drunk drivers. At the same time when we see the government's members of Parliament here in this place fighting against Bill C-452, and when we hear that convicting a drunk driver is tougher than putting a murderer behind bars, we become concerned.

Then we read that Daniel Bert Desjarlais of Edmonton has been convicted 19 times of drunk driving including one offence that killed his uncle or we hear of Robert James Dornbusch, recently stopped by police staggeringly drunk, nearly three times over the legal limit, who is to be convicted for the 17th time of impaired driving, partly because his own lawyer described him as incorrigible.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was quoted in the member's speech. The record from Hansard gives my exact quote. It said:

It has been said that the rationale behind the criminal standard is that it is better that 99 people who committed the offence go free than the one innocent person be convicted.

Please go with the exact record, not implied.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Members will understand that from the Chair's perspective this is not so much a point of order as a matter of clarification, but it is on the record.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I misrepresented the direct statement from the member for London West, I apologize. That was not my intention.

When it is tougher to convict people for drunk driving than it is to convict them of murder, as the former attorney general for Manitoba has told this place, that is a serious problem. That is a red flag that we should all notice about the system. When we find out that there are people who have been convicted of 19 drunk driving offences and they are still behind the wheel, our heads start to spin.

It is a question of odds. How many times do people have to drive drunk before they are caught? How many times are drunk drivers charged before they are convicted? If only 11% of impaired drivers taken to B.C. hospitals were convicted and drivers who have been convicted 16 times are still behind the wheel, that just shows how strong the odds are in a drunk driver's favour.

The government tells us that roughly 71% of drunk drivers were convicted, but if it told us that only 71% of murderers were convicted, the country would enact tougher laws. A 71% conviction rate against people who were charged with drunk driving is not good enough, especially when the biggest single reason why they were not convicted was not that they were innocent, but that they managed to exclude the evidence that proved that they were in fact drunk.

Research has shown that the vast majority of drunk driving trips, 87% of them, are taken by just 5% of drivers. Drunk drivers get behind the wheel of a car 12.5 million times every year in Canada. Only about 70,000 charges of drunk driving are laid per year in these car trips. Of these, 71%, or roughly 49,700 are convicted. That is 49,700 convictions for 12.5 million offences. That is a true conviction rate of roughly 0.4%. Like I said, the odds are very much in a drunk driver's favour.

Bill C-452 is an attempt to swing the balance back. When drunk drivers are pulled over, they are given a blood roadside breathalyzer test and if they have a blood alcohol concentration, BAC, of over 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or .08, they are charged.

Then at trial the accused typically relies on one of two defences: the Carter defence or the last drink defence. The Carter defence relies on experts to rebut the evidence produced by the breathalyzer. The last drink defence claims that the accused was at a party, quickly chugged three or four drinks and then got into the car to get home before getting over .08 alcohol absorbed in the blood rate.

Bill C-452 aims at dealing with both offences. On the Carter defence, subclause 1(4) of C-452 introduces a new paragraph to the Criminal Code that would require any accused wishing to rebut the breathalyzer evidence to show on a balance of probabilities that: first, the analyses were improperly made; second, the procedures were not followed; third, the equipment malfunctioned; or fourth, the accused consumed alcohol after the alleged offence but before taking the samples.

The legal director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, Professor Robert Solomon of the law faculty of University of Western Ontario, supports Bill C-452. He writes that requiring the accused to establish on balance of probabilities that the breathalyzer result is inaccurate is no different to requiring him to prove claims that he was not in the driver's seat, as per the existing paragraph 258 (1)(a) of the Criminal Code.

On the last drink defence, subclause 1(2) replaces subparagraph 258(1)(c)(ii) of the Criminal Code with new text increasing the time allowed for the taking of breath or blood samples from an accused to three hours from the current two hours. It would extend the window from which we can catch people for breaking the law. Here, Professor Solomon notes that this change is entirely consistent with the three hour period in which a police officer may demand a sample under subsection 245(3) and describes as inexplicable Parliament's failure to make corresponding changes to that section, as this bill does.

When this bill was first debated on March 24, some Liberal MPs pointed to its shortcomings and proposed to vote against sending it to committee. It is precisely this Liberal focus on the shortcomings of legislation proposed by other parties that is paralleled in law where 29% of persons charged of drunk driving are acquitted, not because of their innocence, but because of artful reliance on technicalities. That is just not good enough.

Bill C-452 is a serious attempt to deal with a serious problem. Drinking and driving is an issue that is a concern for all Canadians. I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of sending Bill C-452 to committee for examination to strengthen our law, protect families, protect kids, and get in their face and tell drunk drivers that what they are doing will not be tolerated in this new and better Canada.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a short comment. I know my colleague from the Conservatives was somewhat disappointed that the New Democratic Party was not going to put up a speaker. Quite frankly, having had a good number of people in the House listen to me on a number of instances today, I did not want to repeat anything or to speak any more than I had to today.

However, I want to reaffirm the position that we have taken in the past. It is private members' business and everyone will vote according to how they choose, but generally, we have taken the position that we support this bill going to committee. We will encourage our colleagues to vote in favour of it going to committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Taking note that no other member is rising, under right of reply, we will give a maximum of up to five minutes to the member under whose name the bill stands, the hon. member for Lakeland.