House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from November 1 consideration of the motion.

Opposition motion — Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Opposition motion — Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 1, 2007, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of Ms. Minna relating to the business of supply.

Opposition motion — Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, there has been consultation between all parties and I think if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent to pass this motion unanimously.

Opposition motion — Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to adopt this motion?

Opposition motion — Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition motion — Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

November 13th, 2007 / 5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

moved that Bill C-376, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to address the House of Commons this evening to debate Bill C-376, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I table this bill on behalf of my constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country to try to address a problem that concerns them and concerns me as a member of Parliament and, not least, as a father of three daughters, two of them still teenagers and thus part of a demographic that is particularly vulnerable to the tragic results of drinking and driving.

On February 6, my colleagues and I had the honour to rise and debate this bill. Here today we do so again, this time with the benefit of discussing the points of debate that were raised previously.

In that first hour of debate, it was clear that all members agree in principle that drinking and driving is dangerous and that too many innocent people have paid too high a price. About 1,350 Canadians die each year in alcohol related motor vehicle crashes. Many thousands more sustain serious injuries. It is estimated that the annual costs associated with health care, damaged property and lost wages resulting from crashes involving alcohol exceed $5 billion.

Other statistics are equally serious.

Drinking and driving is responsible for about 40% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes. More than four million Canadians admit to driving after drinking. About 12.5 million car trips were made by people who thought they had too much to drink but failed to take the right steps to protect themselves.

Clearly we as legislators have a responsibility to find a way to reduce the risks of drinking and driving on Canadian highways. Let us be clear. This is not an easy task. This particular bill does not work for everyone.

There is disagreement among the provinces, among members of Parliament and even among police enforcement agencies on how to best achieve our goal of reducing the fatal and injurious incidents caused by drinking and driving, on how to have a consistent law across the country, and on how to best help law enforcement carry out the law.

I am well aware of this and I am willing to work with my colleagues to find the best way to reach the goal. We may disagree with the “how“, but we can all agree that we need to do something.

As the bill currently stands, Bill C-376 will create a new .05 blood alcohol concentration, otherwise known as the BAC allowance. This offence is in addition to the current .08 BAC that already exists in the Criminal Code.

Within this legislation that is being proposed, the new .05 limit will be an exclusively summary conviction offence with relatively moderate fines and driving prohibitions, will give peace officers the right to issue a ticket to the accused, who can choose to plead guilty without having to appear in a court, and will make changes to the Criminal Records Act so that if a person convicted of the new .05 offence has no additional drinking- and driving-related convictions for two years, the record of the conviction will be destroyed.

My colleagues have raised concerns that .05% could target the wrong drivers. These concerns are echoed by some in the alcoholic beverage industry. Their concern is that people who enjoy alcohol responsibly, rather than hard-core drinkers, would be targeted by the .05% BAC. These concerns are shared by some of my own constituents. I empathize with them. I understand. We are working together.

An example of this is a letter that appeared in the local paper in my riding, the Kelowna Capital News. A constituent wrote that lowering the blood alcohol content to .05% would succeed only in stopping people from going out to dinner and enjoying a drink with a meal and would fail to curb heavy drinkers, who he believed caused the majority of accidents and could not be deterred.

In fact, these are common misconceptions. Research supports the fact that a lower blood alcohol content does not impede one from enjoying a drink with dinner or going out with a few friends after work and having a few beverages. In fact, few people understand the amount one can drink and still come under the .08 limit.

At the current level of .08, the average male of 200 pounds can drink six bottles of beer on an empty stomach over a two hour period, get behind the wheel of a car and likely not be charged for impaired driving. That is half a dozen beer. I do not know if a lot of people realize that this is the situation today under .08.

In contrast, a blood alcohol content of .05 requires that a person cut those drinks back to four or have a few less glasses of a beverage of choice, which I think we can all agree has no impact on the enjoyment of going out for dinner and enjoying a drink. This has nothing to do with drinking. It has to do with the fact that with drinking and driving there is no safe level. We need to be responsible Canadians. With rights come responsibilities.

Second, the assertion that the drunks causing the accidents are the ones who exceed the current .08% is not accurate. As a deterrent effect, a blood alcohol concentration of .05 reduces impaired driving at all BAC levels. In countries such as Germany and Sweden, which have legislated at .05 and .02 respectively, the sharpest declines were seen among those drinkers and drivers at the highest blood alcohol concentration levels.

The .05 BAC, then, is not a prohibitionist measure and it is effective in reaching the so-called heavy drinkers. In fact, countries that have instituted a .05 or lower BAC have seen significant reductions in the number of deaths due to impaired driving and have witnessed a deterrent effect on those who drink and drive.

When Canadians are informed of these facts and understand the amount of alcohol that the current law allows drivers to consume, surveys show that support increases for a lower blood alcohol concentration limit.

Certainly a key component in the debate is education and changing the public's attitude to what is acceptable. In Canada, one organization in particular has a profound impact on educating the public and raising awareness of the harm that is the result of drinking and driving. I am sure it is no stranger to our colleagues in the House and to Canadians in general. The organization is Mothers Against Drunk Driving, otherwise known as MADD Canada. It is a grassroots organization that is the driving force behind the .05 offence and having such a law practised consistently across the country.

At the heart of MADD Canada are the mothers, the fathers and the friends who have suffered great loss because of a drunk driver.

Earlier this year, I met with MADD's national president, Margaret Miller. On May 16, 2004, Margaret's life changed forever. Her son, Bruce, was killed in an impaired driving incident in Caledonia, P.E.I. Bruce was a police constable with the Springhill Police Service. Like so many of MADD's volunteers, within months of Bruce's death, Margaret was speaking in high schools and became a volunteer with MADD.

MADD Canada has long supported this cause through the very successful red ribbon campaign. Over four million of these red ribbons have been distributed. I encourage my colleagues in the House to lend their support for the official launch of the 2007 campaign which will take place Thursday, November 15, on Parliament Hill. I wish MADD all the best as it continues in its efforts to fight against impaired driving. In the words of MADD, we have a long way to go to stop impaired driving.

Canadians might believe we have some of the toughest laws anywhere, but in fact far fewer drunk drivers are charged here than in the United States. Canada's charge rate of impaired driver arrests is less than half that of the United States. Other countries give their police forces much broader enforcement powers, with the result that they have higher apprehension and detection rates than Canada. In Sweden, for example, 90% of drunk drivers who end up in a hospital are convicted. In Canada, that figure is only 11%.

We have to ask ourselves: is the current .08 blood alcohol concentration in the Criminal Code enough? Does it accurately reflect the true costs associated with drinking and driving? Does it send an adequate message to Canadians that no amount of drinking and driving is safe?

When parliamentarians set the .08% BAC in 1970, which is still today's legislation, they did so based on findings that we now know considerably underestimated the risk of fatal crashes associated with impaired driving. Not only does today's research show that a majority of the driving population is impaired in some important measure at as low as a .02% blood alcohol concentration, it has also established that occasional drinkers have a higher risk of fatal crash than regular drinkers at the same blood alcohol concentration.

The fact is that no amount of drinking and driving is completely safe, and although logically the only solution is to never drink and drive, as legislators we must balance such laws against the issues of practicality, of the burden it places on the resources of all levels of government and our police, and of the right of the individual to determine his or her choice to act responsibly.

The evidence shows that a blood alcohol concentration level below .05% is a responsible limit. However, it is only part of the solution. Setting lower limits makes sense, but how we enforce lower limits is also critical. If this debate is to achieve anything, it is that it will answer this question: how should we enforce the law effectively?

Concerns have been raised about how best to deter drivers from drinking and driving, and these concerns must be addressed, for experience tells us that without agreement on the way forward, we will not succeed in our goals.

I am aware that many of the provincial governments are concerned that by adding a .05% BAC to the Criminal Code the measure will unduly burden some of the provinces, the courts and our police. I do not think anyone can argue that it certainly will change what is now the current practice.

In closing, at the moment, all provinces with the exception of Quebec have provincial and territorial short term roadside licence suspension legislation. This legislation does not create any offence or carry any fine or other penalty. In most cases, it is a four-hour to twenty-four hour suspension. The car is parked. Someone has to drive the driver home or the driver can take a cab home.

Bill C-376 would add significant weight to the provincial sanctions at .05% blood alcohol concentration. More importantly, it would apply uniformly throughout Canada. We need to study this issue thoroughly and agree to find tools to achieve a reduction in drinking and driving.

I would like to honour my colleagues who also have brought this issue forward: the member for Cariboo—Prince George; the member for Langley, B.C.; Senator Marjory LeBreton; and of course the late Chuck Cadman, who was a strong advocate on this issue of drinking and driving.

I look forward to working with my hon. colleagues to find a way to reduce impaired driving in this country and to make our laws tougher to send the message that drinking and driving is unacceptable and, in doing so, reduce unnecessary deaths of Canadians.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

There is a five minute question and comment period if anyone has any questions or comments for the hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country.

The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country whether he has statistics on the number of people who are believed to have caused accidents while they had a blood alcohol level of less than 0.08%, but more than 0.03%.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague asks an excellent question. A study called the STRID report, done by a working group looking at short term suspensions, is a compilation of provincial and territorial organizations and insurance and transportation associations. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation has stated that “drivers with BACs in the 0.051% to the 0.08% range are 7.2 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers with 0.00% BACs”. People who are between .051% and 0.08% are 7.2 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. Both Canadian and American studies indicate that these relative risks are much higher among young drivers.

I would like to reiterate the fact that impaired driving remains the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. On average each and every day there are four Canadians killed on our roads, plus there are 187 Canadians injured in alcohol and drug related crashes.

I think that if I walked down the street with a loaded gun and was going to shoot four people, there would be a hue and cry in our country. I think a vehicle is comparable to a loaded weapon if someone behind the wheel has been drinking and driving.

I believe it is important that parliamentarians work together, take off our partisan jerseys and collectively come up with a comprehensive plan to alter these unacceptable statistics.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for bringing this matter before the House of Commons.

All Canadians and all members of the House are concerned about the damage and the havoc that can be created with drinking and driving irresponsibly.

My own view is the bill does not really address the real core issues. It does not address the incidence of the types of accidents caused by chronic drinkers and drivers, those people who drink well in excess of .08. They put their lives and the lives of others in jeopardy by getting behind the wheel of a car. It creates havoc on our roads. These are the people, the repeat offenders, who we should address.

We already have some very good sanctions in place at the provincial and territory level. In nine out of ten provinces it is an offence to drive with a blood alcohol content level of .05 or over. The tenth province, the province of Quebec, announced its intention to introduce similar legislation this fall. The law allows for the immediate roadside suspension for anyone caught with a blood alcohol content level over .05. In Saskatchewan is .04.

The benefit of this approach is the sanctions can be handed out by police immediately without all the time and cost of a court proceeding. To criminalize these offences at the .08 or .05 level is unduly harsh. It will clog up our courts and prosecution. We already know about the dangers and the problems we have with Crown prosecutors plea bargaining because our courts are already filled with people who are committing particularly heinous crimes.

If it were justified, I would support it. However, in my view it is not supportable, given that the real problem is the chronic drinkers, those who reoffend, those who continuously take their lives and the lives of others in their hands.

How many times have we read in the paper about someone who has been charged with drinking and driving and may have been fined extensively. They get back on the road, drink and drive again and are given a slightly harsher penalty. Maybe their driver's licence is suspended. Then they drink and drive again, repeatedly. We need to deal with those people, not the casual drinker.

Every now and then people make a mistake. They might have two or three beers and suddenly find themselves with a criminal charge, which will be with them forever. This may impair their ability to advance in life and become a contributing member of society. I do not think that is warranted in this circumstance.

I am not arguing that drinking and driving irresponsibly is not a very serious matter; it is. That is why the provinces, rightly, have imposed pretty serious restrictions and sanctions at the provincial level.

I should also add that Bill C-2, which is currently before the House, also brings in tougher sanctions for repeat and chronic drinkers who drive. That is the way to deal with it. People who are chronic offenders could be put away for up to 10 years. Those who drink and drive while their licence is suspended should be treated particularly harshly, and Bill C-2 does that.

Bill C-2 also deals with the question of drug impaired driving. This is a reality we are facing as well. Many people today know police can pull people aside and do a breathalyzer test. They have the technology to detect if someone is over .05 or .08.

The reality is the technologies are not there to put in place a regime that recognizes people are taking drugs and driving. In fact, I think we are finding that people of all ages are saying they can beat the rap by having drugs or maybe a mixture of drugs and alcohol.

When the police pull them over, it is easy to tell what their alcohol content is through a breathalyzer, but it is very difficult to determine whether someone has ingested drugs. In fact, they might have had prescription drugs for some illness and given the technologies we have today, it is very difficult to determine whether someone has a prescribed drug or even an over the counter drug, or whether it is a mix of that plus marijuana, some cocaine, crack, heroin or whatever.

Bill C-2 attempts, and I think rightly, to put in a regime that deals with drug impaired drivers, but the reality is it is not a simple matter. We should also focus equal attention on drug impaired driving.

Some in this debate have said that by introducing the legislation before us, Bill C-376, we would be in line with other jurisdictions. With respect to those who said that, the facts say otherwise. A study was done of international drinking and driving laws in 77 comparable jurisdictions, sponsored by the Canada Safety Council, by an independent, respected organization. It found that only eight jurisdictions treat a .05 driving offence as a crime.

The study also has found that in most international jurisdictions a .05 driving is an administrative offence, not a criminal offence. I think the reason for that is for the reasons I outlined. We cannot slap people with criminal records for every crime that is committed otherwise we would be creating a lot havoc within our society.

The member who introduced the bill has the right intention and is motivated for the right reasons. However, I would draw him to the fact that the Canada Safety Council does not support the bill. It says that there is insufficient proof that the bill will have a positive impact on the number of serious accidents. This is a very serious negative evaluation of the bill from an organization that is well qualified and should know what would work and what would not.

While I think the intentions of the bill are good, and we are all concerned about this problem, Bill C-376 takes us in the wrong direction. What we need to focus on is the hard core drinkers, those who continually get in their cars, drink and drive or take drugs and drive. At the provincial level, we have seen a lot of activity with road checks, bringing people over and checking their blood level content. Now with this new regime for drug impaired driving there would be a similar approach.

The way I understand that would work, under Bill C-2, and I know we studied this at the Standing Committee on Justice, is there would be sort of a three-legged test. First, if people are driving in ways that looks like they are driving dangerously, police officers will pull them aside. They will ask them to do a simple test like walk a straight line. If they cannot do that, they will take a sample on-site of their breath or some other sample from their body and that will be checked by a technician. If that proves to be a problem, the sample will be put through a full laboratory test. If those three tests are there, if the person fails those three tests, they will be then charged with drug impaired driving.

That is a positive development in Bill C-2. It is the direction we should go. Our party supports that and also the tougher sanctions for chronic repeat offenders, those who drink and drive repeatedly. Those are the people we need to address.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed I believe that it can be extremely frustrating for a backbencher, in an assembly such as ours, to think about a serious issue and to want to bring a solution to it and help settle it. This is surely how the member for Kelowna—Lake Country feels while presenting this bill. I know that he has studied the issue extensively before proposing this legislation. I also think that he has a sincere desire to correct a serious issue that needs to be corrected. However, I submit, with all due respect, that he has chosen the wrong means. This is one of the frustrations that we must live with within a federation, all the more so considering that a majority of our fellow citizens, who elected us here, are very often hardly aware of the problems created by the sharing of powers, or sovereignty, between the various levels of government.

I also want to explain to my colleague what we should do if we want to do what most of the countries he mentioned do. They punish impaired driving and driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.05%. I would suggest that the best solution would be to do as they have done. They consider it an administrative offence, which enables them to impose an immediate punishment that corresponds to the offence and yields the same results he is proposing in his bill. There is, however, one difference, and it is an important one. Because this is the federal Parliament, not a provincial legislature, he cannot legislate for traffic violations, which fall under provincial jurisdiction. Despite the precautions included in his bill, he can do nothing more than use the Criminal Code to add such offences to the criminal records of those convicted. In contrast, in almost every one of the 77 countries he mentioned that punish such actions, this is an administrative offence.

It is also important to point out that all of the provinces have taken action in this regard. Only one had not taken action until recently, but this weekend, Quebec's Minister of Transportation announced that she would be asking Quebec's National Assembly to make it an offence to drive with a blood alcohol content exceeding 0.05%. That means that everywhere in Canada, in all provinces, on all roads, driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.05% will be considered an offence.

Nevertheless, I cannot ignore the statistics quoted by the member for Etobicoke North the first time he discussed this issue. According to those statistics, only 3% of those injured in accidents had a blood alcohol content over 0.05%. In contrast, 67% had no alcohol in their blood at all. I think that the proportion of those injured who had a much higher blood alcohol content was somewhere between 3% and 67%.

In my opinion, prevention and rehabilitation measures are much more effective than deterrence through scare tactics. Deterrence is necessary, but it is much less effective. In Quebec, we have significantly reduced recidivism rates. If a licence is suspended, it is extremely difficult to get it back. To get it back, the offender must take a course on the dangers of drinking and driving, taught through appropriate films, information on alcohol rates, the number of victims, and so on.

Furthermore, offenders must re-take the driving exam to obtain their licence and must pay for all the courses they have to attend. In the end, it is almost like brainwashing. On the other hand, the intention is certainly good: to convince people who have committed this offence and who have been punished not to get their licence back until they have taken these steps.

Aware of the fact that he was using the Criminal Code, the hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country wanted to reduce the consequences of the use of the Criminal Code for the offender. I appreciate his efforts, but I am not sure he was successful. Nowhere do we see a definition for “criminal record”. The question asked is “Have you ever been charged with or convicted of a criminal offence in Canada?” How is a person with such a conviction supposed to respond? I think that person must answer that they have been convicted of a criminal offence in Canada, even if they have received a pardon.

Furthermore, in this age of computers, how can a record be destroyed? Someone could easily destroy it in Canada and assume that no electronic copies had been made. I have the impression that our neighbours to the south, who collect data on convictions in Canada, would not destroy them. Therefore, it could be harmful. A person convicted of an offence listed in the highway safety codes in various provinces does not have to answer that they have been convicted of a criminal offence. His or her record is not included in the records of criminal convictions.

We share the hon. member's concerns but, the ideal solution, in my opinion, is an administrative one. I also believe that such a solution has the advantage of imposing a penalty in a measured but immediate fashion to the offender. This could mean that he is deprived of his car for a day. I am prepared to recognize that it could be for more than a day. In fact, at one time, in Quebec, we proposed a penalty of up to a month of immediate suspension. This can be done in the case of offences of an administrative nature, but that is not what is provided in the legislation, as it is currently worded.

I understand the limits. It is not because I am a sovereignist in Quebec that I am condemning federalism. Federalism may be very appropriate. In any case, I do believe in a true confederation. This is one of the problems that we have here. We come here, we want to change things, we identify a program, but we do not have the means to do it. The means to achieve these laudable objectives, and particularly to truly implement the measures that the hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country wants to implement, is a provincial act. It is with this in mind that the way we are going to vote should be interpreted.

The hon. member felt that I asked him a good question, but I am not sure of the meaning of his reply. I understood that the study to which he referred is a theoretical study. In other words, experts have evaluated that, with a blood alcohol level between 0.03 and 0.08, the attention level of a person is seven times lower, or something to that effect. However, I would be curious to know whether there is a study which shows that, in Canada, people who drive their car and who have a blood alcohol level of 0.04 or 0.05 actually pose a problem.

I would like to make one last comment. I will always remember the title of a book. Lise Payette, who, at one time, was a television star in Quebec, and who went on to become the minister who had the National Assembly pass the automobile insurance act, also wrote a book with this very significant title: Le pouvoir? Connais pas!

She too found it very frustrating to be part of a governing body. It must be even more frustrating to be a member of Parliament with a good idea, but not be in the appropriate assembly to propose it.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House on behalf of the New Democratic Party to say that we will be supporting this bill.

I will support the bill essentially because it contains important elements, which I will mention later in my presentation.

There are of course problems and things that will have to be worked on at committee. The first step, however, is to discuss the bill's principles in this House. The next one will be to refer the bill to committee, where it can then be improved. In dealing with matters of public significance, one really has to weigh the pros and cons. The pros are all the measures to stop the epidemic of deaths and injuries caused by individuals who consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel. These are important measures to take. Equally important, although secondary, is the issue of jurisdiction. The main issue is the principle of reducing the number of people killed or injured on our roads.

Clearly, in countries where the legal blood alcohol content was lowered from 0.08% to 0.05%, this decision had a positive impact and fewer people were killed or injured. It is obvious that, as parliamentarians, we have to take measures to remedy the situation by lowering the legal BAC so that there are fewer victims on Canadian roads.

It is for those reasons that I rise to speak in favour of Bill C-376 presented by the member for Kelowna—Lake Country. I am certainly glad that he has done so because this is an important piece of legislation.

The NDP in Nova Scotia and in this House traditionally have been in favour of reducing the blood alcohol level that is present in a way that will reduce the number of victims, the number of deaths, and the number of injured on Canada's highways. This is extremely important because all of us as members of Parliament have experience in our particular ridings, in our regions, and our communities with drunk drivers and the victims that they create.

In my own riding, I am near to the Patella Bridge, and there have been a number of victims of fatalities and injured individuals as a result of drunk drivers operating on that bridge, particularly in the evenings and in the early morning hours. Taking this kind of measure helps to reduce those number of victims and that is extremely important.

I would like to pay tribute at this time to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Its headquarters are in New Westminster, on 12th Street, and the lower mainland chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers has done a terrific job of educating the public about victims of drunk drivers. It has spoken about measures that we can all take, educational measures but also legal measures, to reduce the number of victims that we have on Canada's highways.

I certainly join with other members of this House in paying tribute to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. It has made a real difference in our community.

Let us go back to the issue of whether or not reducing blood alcohol levels from .08 to .05 actually makes a difference.

We know that in this country, we actually have one of the highest percentages of fatally injured drivers who are legally impaired. We have .08 as our standard currently, and recent statistics have shown that over 30% of fatally injured drivers were legally impaired.

The United States has similar blood alcohol levels. In fact, in some states it actually ranges higher than .08, and there is a similar percentage of fatally injured drivers who were legally impaired.

However, countries such as Finland, Japan, the Netherlands and Germany that have a lower standard of .05 have actually had much lower rates in regard to the percentage of legally impaired among fatally injured drivers. So in a country such as Finland, with the .05 standard, with a similar cold climate in much of the country, just over 20% of the fatally injured drivers were found to be legally impaired.

That is an important benchmark. Lowering that rate essentially seems to make a difference. In countries that have a .05 standard, the percentage of fatally injured drivers who were legally impaired is lower. That is extremely important.

Let us look at countries that have taken the action of lowering their blood alcohol level limits. For example, in Belgium there was a 10% decrease in traffic fatalities in 1995, and then a further 11% decrease in 1996 when it reduced the blood alcohol concentration limit to .05, so over a two year span there was an immediate reduction in the number of traffic fatalities.

Sweden enacted a .05 blood alcohol concentration limit in the 1950s and it saw a reduction later on, which further reduced that level down to .02. It found that there was a 9.7% reduction in fatal crashes, an 11% reduction in single vehicle crashes, and a 7.5% reduction in all crashes as it lowered the blood alcohol concentration.

In Australia, a 1997 study that analyzed traffic data for periods ranging from 13 to 17 years indicated that those states in Australia that reduced their blood alcohol concentration limits from .08 to .05 experienced positive results right across. Queensland reduced its blood alcohol concentration limit to .05 and there was a 14% reduction in serious collisions, and an 18% reduction in fatal collisions. New South Wales is estimated to have reduced serious collisions by 7%, fatal collisions by 8%, and single vehicle nighttime collisions by 11%. In South Australia there were similar positive results.

In talking about these many examples and getting back to Bill C-376 presented by the member for Kelowna—Lake Country, there is undeniable evidence that reducing blood alcohol concentration saves lives and stops injuries. It is a no-brainer. It just makes common sense. If we have seen in country after country, in local jurisdiction after local jurisdiction that lowering the blood alcohol concentration limit has saved lives, has reduced the number of crashes, has reduced the number of injuries, why would we not support the bill? It just makes good common sense. Fewer victims, fewer injuries, fewer deaths. It makes good sense to support the private member's bill put forward by the member for Kelowna—Lake Country.

Some concerns have been raised around summary convictions. Some concerns have been raised around consultation with provinces. There are perhaps some wrinkles to iron out in the bill itself, but those are issues that can be dealt with more properly in committee. Our task today is to simply say yea or nay on principle.

In this corner of the House there is no doubt that the principles of the bill, to reduce the number of deaths, to reduce the number of injuries, to save Canadians the heartache that comes from having drunk drivers on the road, need to be supported and the wrinkles can be ironed out in committee.