Debates of Feb. 6th, 2007
House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was impaired.
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Private Members' Business
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for bringing the bill forward. I will be supporting his bill enthusiastically. The House has dealt with the issue of impairment caused by the consumption of alcohol a number of times, whether related to fetal alcohol syndrome, or driving an automobile or operating machinery.
The member probably has found out by now that the biggest opposition he is having to the bill is coming from the beverage alcohol industry. In my experience in trying to get health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages, I found that it is the most powerful lobby in the country and it will put every unreasonable assertion out there about why this is a stupid idea.
Could the member comment on whether he has been approached by the alcohol industry to back off the bill and is he aware of any other stakeholder group that is opposed to his proposed the initiative?
Private Members' Business
Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague opposite for his support for this bill and his understanding of some of the challenges that have been faced by my supporters and my colleagues, who brought this bill forward in the past.
Ironically, to date, I have not had a lot of opposition from the breweries and other beverage industries. One of the local microbreweries in my riding, Tree Brewing, came forward and supported the bill on behalf of some of the microbreweries. It understands there could be some industry concerns.
I think from a society perspective, people have understood the impacts of responsible drinking and driving. We have rights on one hand and we have responsibility on the other of bringing those together. From 27 years ago, when the legislation was first introduced, we have come a long way, and there is unanimous support from the community today. I have not had that opposition. In fact, I have had support from various organizations.
I have a letter from the president of Brain Trust Canada, who has offered his support for my private member's bill. He says: “I believe that this legislation will save lives and reduce the incidents of brain injury in Canada. In B.C. alcohol has been found to factor in over 60% of all motor vehicle crashes, resulting in harm to occupants. Reducing the legal limit will aid in the fight against the terrible human cost resulting from drinking and driving. We are pleased to offer our support and thank you on behalf of our membership for your efforts to reduce the human suffering caused by drinking and driving”.
To date I have not had any. I might have some discussion after this. I look forward to meeting and working with industries such as the hospitality industry. I come from the Okanagan Valley. We have the 10 top Canadian wineries in B.C., so we definitely support the consumption of some good Okanagan beverages. However, it is the rights and responsibilities. I look forward to working once again with everybody in the House to move the bill forward.
Private Members' Business
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier in the House today, I am fully in support of the objectives of the bill. I have a technical concern and I hope the member could look into it. It is the listing of people.
I like the idea of a summary conviction and the lower level of conviction, but I do not like the listing of the criminal offence because there have been a lot of problems with that in the United States and other countries. Sometimes these records last forever. In Canada one can get a pardon.
If there is a way to have this deterrent without that type of listing, I would be much in favour of that. Hopefully, we can look into that at committee.
Private Members' Business
Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's support as well. I will take that information under advisement. It has some implications from a provincial perspective. We are working with our provincial and territorial colleagues to try to address those concerns.
Private Members' Business
Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak this evening to Bill C-376, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
First of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for tabling this bill. Impaired driving is a serious problem that carries a high price for the innocent, their families and the Canadian legal system. All members present understand and share the desire of the member for Kelowna—Lake Country to reduce impaired driving and its serious consequences.
For reasons I will explain in my remarks, I do not think the bill targets the real problems we currently have with ongoing impaired driving. For that reason I cannot support it.
The first concern with the bill is that it does not properly match the punishment with the offence. While I think everyone in the House will agree that there must be legal sanctions for people driving with blood alcohol content, or BAC, levels of between .05% and .08%, I have strong reservations as to whether the criminal justice system is the best tool to deal with these people.
Lowering the criminal blood alcohol content limit to .05 would push many people into the criminal justice system who probably should not be there. Criminal charges can have very serious impacts on a person's ability to work, to be bonded and to travel. Even if a person's criminal record is removed at some point, some people may still be affected because many legal forms require people to state whether they have ever been charged with a criminal offence.
Moreover, research conducted by Canada's Traffic Injury Research Foundation suggests that 4% of all drivers are responsible for 88% of all impaired driving trips. Drivers stopped with BAC levels between .05 and .08 tend not to be part of this high risk group.
While we all agree that we need to send these people a message, pushing them directly into the criminal justice system is not the best solution, in my judgment. A more appropriate way to deal with drinking and driving offences is through a graduated system of punishments that treats offenders more harshly as their blood alcohol content increases or if they reoffend. In fact, this system already exists in Canada.
What some people may not realize is that in nine provinces it is already an offence for anyone to be driving with a blood alcohol content of .05. Motor vehicle or highway traffic laws of most provinces allow for immediate roadside suspensions for drivers stopped with BAC levels between .05 and .08. In Saskatchewan it is .04.
These so-called administrative sanctions can be immediately handed out by police officers to offending drivers on the roadside, without the need for charges or courts. These sanctions achieve the goal of getting drivers with .05 and above off the road without incurring the time and cost of court and legal proceedings. They also are regarded by many experts, including the Canada Safety Council, as being an appropriate and effective deterrent for lower BAC drivers. We need to take drivers off the road who continuously offend or who drive while suspended. This is possible currently with the regulations and laws on our books.
As I mentioned, an analysis by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation suggests that lowering the criminal BAC limit to .05 would significantly increase the number of criminal prosecutions in Canada. The extra caseload created by this would put additional stress on our criminal court system and require police officers to spend more time in court instead of patrolling our roads and dealing with much more serious criminal activity.
If the legal system is to be given the means to pursue and punish drivers with a lower concentration of alcohol in the blood, I do not believe that it should do so within the criminal justice system. To propose devoting more legal and police resources to the criminal prosecution of drivers with alcohol levels of 0.5 or 0.8 would result in these resources being diverted from the prosecution of more serious crimes.
Criminal charges would represent an excessive level of punishment for most of the people who would be captured by this new limit.
I believe that this bill is directed at the wrong people, with respect. While a criminal blood alcohol content threshold of .05 would provide a new and harsh punishment for some drivers, a lower criminal BAC limit would have no additional impact on the small group of hard core drinking drivers who are disproportionately responsible for fatal crashes involving alcohol. These hard core drinking drivers have been studied in detail by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, the internationally recognized experts on the subject who are based right here in Ottawa.
Analyzing 1999 Canadian road fatality statistics, these researchers found that 67% of all the drivers fatally injured in motor vehicle accidents had not been drinking at all, while 20% had blood alcohol levels in excessive of .15 and 7% had BAC levels of between .08 and .15, the current criminal threshold. While 3% of drivers had BAC levels between .05 and .08, the same percentage of fatally injured drivers, 3%, also had BAC levels between zero and .049, which suggests the relative level of risk was equivalent.
Statistics show that, in terms of drunk driving, we must concentrate on those deemed “serious” offenders, who have blood alcohol levels of 0.15 or more. Unfortunately, this bill does not contain any additional deterrents for this high-risk group.
It has been mentioned that this legislation will only bring Canada in line with laws in many other countries which have already adopted a national blood alcohol content limit of .05. France, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and several U.S. states are often cited as examples. However, last year a study of international drinking and driving laws in 77 comparable jurisdictions sponsored by the Canada Safety Council found that only eight jurisdictions treat a .05 driving offence as a crime.
Taking into account that most provinces and territories already have legal sanctions for BAC levels of .05 and above, Canada's legislation is perfectly in line with international standards.
My issue with this legislation is not whether a person driving with a BAC level of between .05 and .08 should be punished. My concern is whether these drivers should be criminalized for it. Our legislative priority must be to prevent alcohol related motor vehicle accidents, not simply to punish offenders as harshly as we can.
This bill would bring before the courts individuals who should not be there. These individuals should, instead, be dissuaded from driving while impaired by the immediate penalties imposed by the police officer at the scene, which is already the case.
The majority of drinking drivers involved in alcohol related fatal crashes have blood content levels of .15 or more. These are the drivers we need to target.
Private Members' Business
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate our colleague on his private member's bill. I understand this was his first experience introducing a bill as a new member. I would like to thank him for contributing to the work of the House.
I am among those who believe that we should dedicate more time to private members' business, which gives us all the opportunity to do our work as members even though we may not always agree with what our colleagues propose.
I am disinclined to recommend that my caucus support this bill as it stands. I understand that the member wants to keep people under the influence off public roads. I agree with him that this is a very serious problem. It is our responsibility as legislators to punish those who disobey traffic laws and the Criminal Code. However, I do not think that what the member is proposing is the best way to accomplish that.
I did not have an opportunity to look into it myself, so I asked our Bloc Québécois legal researcher to check with Éduc'alcool, a very credible Quebec organization involved in campaigns to prevent alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Éduc'alcool is financed through liquor taxes paid by Quebec taxpayers. The Société des alcools du Québec, a Crown corporation, contributes to a fund that pays for such initiatives. I did not have a chance to talk to them about this, but Éduc'alcool explained to our researcher that this is not the right way to do it.
The right way is to run prevention campaigns, information campaigns, especially campaigns targeted at at-risk groups. For example, at certain times of the year, students go to parties where lots of alcohol is available, so they tend to drink a lot. It does not always occur to inveterate drinkers to leave the car and give someone else the keys when they are too drunk to drive.
In Quebec, the results were quite encouraging. Éduc'alcool and its—at times shocking—ad campaigns forced Quebeckers and others who saw the ads to be aware of the problem and ask themselves questions. One of Éduc'alcool's themes was that drinking and driving kills. When people are very drunk, their reflexes slow and if they are speeding, there can be a point of no return.
I believe that this bill is not the route we should take as legislators. Of course, there are interesting aspects to it. For example, criminal charges will not be laid. Instead, a ticket will be issued, giving rise to a summary conviction charge. If the individual does not reoffend, there can even be a sort of automatic pardon. If the person is duly identified, after a set period of time, the offence will be wiped off the individual's record.
The member's objectives are commendable, which is noble. But we have to ask ourselves whether this is the right way to go about achieving those objectives.
We have to hope that governments, regardless of their political stripe—whether they are left, right, centrist or not—will fund advertising campaigns by organizations such as Éduc'alcool. These campaigns are expensive. To reach people during prime time can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
An analysis of what has been written about the fact that Quebeckers' have adopted much safer behaviour behind the wheel shows that the Criminal Code has very clear provisions whereby blood alcohol content will be measured, violators will be prosecuted, and hardened drinkers and people who commit offences will be punished. Obviously, in cases of criminal negligence causing serious bodily harm or death, sentences can go up to life in prison.
The government is also proposing to harmonize sections 253 and 254, part a and part b, in Bill C-32. We agree with the principle of denunciation in cases where a person causes death or serious bodily harm. The sentences in the Criminal Code reflect denunciation and social disapproval, and this is as it should be.
Do we really think, however, that the segment of the population that would be picked up in going from 0.5 to 0.8 represents the people who are a danger on the public roads? When we want to check whether someone has a blood alcohol level of 0.5 or 0.8 millilitres per 100 milligrams, we find that we are looking at people who have probably had a glass and a half, or two glasses, or two and a half glasses, at a party or a reunion or a family get-together. The people who are going to be affected by this measure are not hardened drinkers or the people whom we want to deter from getting behind the wheel and get to hand over their keys because they have a problem with alcohol dependency.
That is therefore why we have serious reservations, at the same time recognizing that impaired driving is a matter of great concern. I was in the House for the debate in 1997, and I am going to take part very seriously in debate on Bill C-32, which we will be studying when it is referred. For example, we will look at the possibility of having sobriety tests for drugs. Yes, that is a problem. Yes, we are right, as legislators, to be concerned about it.
However, changing the legal limit from 0.5 to 0.8, as the bill proposes, is not the way to fix the situation. Let me repeat: in Quebec, we have had success stories. A few years ago, some of our colleagues in this House thought that the situation could be fixed by making liquor manufacturers put prescribed labels on bottles of wine or beer. Our colleague from Mississauga South proposed that bill. At one time I believed that this might have been a worthwhile approach. When we looked into it more deeply, though, and examined these questions with experts who had done studies on a regular basis, we realized that this was unfortunately not the right approach and that even though it had been adopted in some American states, it had not necessarily produced results.
I congratulate the member for his contribution to the debate. I thank him for drawing the attention of this House to an important problem. I would respectfully submit that this may not be the right approach to take, and I would propose instead that we both work to persuade the government to invest more money in awareness campaigns directed to targeted groups, particularly young people and hardened drinkers.
Private Members' Business
February 6th, 2007 / 6:50 p.m.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party to speak to private member's Bill C-376 that has been brought forward by the member of Parliament for Kelowna—Lake Country, a person with whom I have worked in committee.
I would like to congratulate him for bringing this private member's bill forward. It is based on much of what we in the NDP presented in a private member's motion last April, Motion No. 29, which spoke specifically to reducing the possibility of blood alcohol concentration from .08 to .05, and also spoke about a policy of zero tolerance, including mandatory fines and jail time for impaired driving offences.
That was tabled in April and we had the private member's bill brought forward by the member for Kelowna—Lake Country at the end of October, so I congratulate him on bringing it forward.
I certainly agree in principle with this bill. There is no doubt about that. I believe that in committee we will be able to make some improvements, some concerns that I will raise a little bit later on, but there is no doubt in his conviction that he raises by bringing this bill forward. My concern, if there is one, is the fact that the government itself does not seem inclined to push this issue forward.
We know that this is an issue of major concern in communities across the country and indeed is, tragically, one of the chief causes of death, particularly among young Canadians. We definitely need, as a Parliament, in all four corners of this House, to move forward and reduce the allowable blood alcohol content. There is no doubt about that. The private member's bill does move that forward. I would certainly hope that the government is willing to push forward so that we have legislation like this in place.
I would like to pay tribute for a moment to the activists with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Indeed, the greater Vancouver chapter of MADD is located in my constituency, on 12th Street in New Westminster. I would like to pay tribute to Bob Rorison, who is the president, and Helen Hoeflicker, the past president of that chapter, as well as the board of directors including: Katie Gaba, Audrey Yan, Melissa Tyson, Wendy Tamminga, Krista Clark, Donnis Vanloo and Reza Sabour.
The board of directors of MADD in greater Vancouver play an active role, as well as the many volunteers who are involved in MADD, both in educating the public and particularly the young people about the consequences of drunk driving. They want to ensure that it does not happen and that tragedies are avoided, but also they push forward the legislative framework, so that there is less and less tolerance of drunk driving and we can drive the fatality rate and the huge injury rate down. They play an extremely important role.
I participated, along with my colleague from Surrey North, in the last MADD candlelight tribute that was held to victims of drunk driving in Vancouver just last fall, and will be participating in the next candlelight tribute as well. They play an extremely important role and they deserve really the thanks of parliamentarians from all four corners of the House for the work that they do.
I would also like to mention the stand of the NDP in various provinces. In Nova Scotia, for example, a few weeks ago, the Nova Scotia NDP has been pressing for proposed changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, recommending strongly lowering the allowable blood alcohol concentration level from .08 to .05. Nova Scotia New Democrats as well as New Democrats across the country are active to ensure that we can reduce the carnage that is taking place on the highways and bridges of our country.
Tragically, in my area of Burnaby--New Westminster, we have seen many accidents related to alcohol. On some of the choke points in greater Vancouver, such as the Patella Bridge in New Westminster, many tragedies could be avoided if we took action.
It is for that reason that I am rising in support of the private member's bill in principle. I will come back in a moment to some of the concerns we may have, but there is absolutely no doubt and there is very conclusive evidence that lowering the allowable blood alcohol concentration has an impact on reducing accident rates, reducing fatalities and reducing injuries.
For example, it is important to note studies that have been done which show the legal impairment among fatally injured drivers. In a study from 1997-98, by country, when we look at Canada with the .08 that is currently permitted, we see that among a number of western industrialized countries we actually had the highest percentage of legally impaired drivers who were fatally injured.
In Canada, with its .08, over 30% of fatally injured drivers were legally impaired. In the United States, it was similar at about 30% or a little lower. In the United States, states range from .08% to 1% in terms of blood alcohol level. Finland, which has a .05 maximum level, actually has a lower rate, with just over 20% of the fatally injured drivers found to be legally impaired. In the United Kingdom, where it is .08, it is at roughly the same level, but other countries with .05, such as Japan, the Netherlands and Germany, for example, have much lower rates in regard to the percentage of legally impaired among fatally injured drivers.
Just to look at the studies that have been done in this regard, for example, in Belgium the BAC or blood alcohol concentration limit was reduced to .05 in 1994. At that time, there was a 10% decrease in traffic fatalities in 1995 and then a further 11% decrease in 1996. It is very clear: there were fewer victims, fewer tragedies, fewer deaths and fewer injuries as a result of that initiative taken in Belgium.
Sweden enacted a .05 BAC limit in the 1950s, saw a reduction and then furthered that reduction down to .02. That limit was introduced in 1990 and resulted in further traffic safety benefits. In fact, a 1997 study reported that in the six years after the enactment of the .02 limit there was a 9.7% reduction in fatal crashes, an 11% reduction in single vehicle crashes and a 7.5% reduction in all crashes.
The authors of that study noted that the clearest effects occurred in fatal and single vehicle crashes, the category of crashes in which alcohol is most likely to be involved. It is further supported by a study in the year 2000 which estimated that a .02 BAC limit resulted in an approximately 10% decrease in fatal crashes and a 12% decrease in serious personal injury crashes.
Finally, a 1997 Australian study that analyzed traffic data for periods ranging from 13 to 17 years, a much longer period, indicated that those states that reduced their BAC limit from .08 to .05 experienced positive results. For example, Queensland reduced its BAC limit to .05 and there was a 14% reduction in serious collisions and an 18% reduction in fatal collisions. Similarly, a .05 BAC restriction in New South Wales was estimated to have reduced serious collisions by 7%, fatal collisions by 8% and single vehicle nighttime collisions by 11%. Other studies have reported similar results with a .05 BAC limit in South Australia, in the Australian capital territory.
It is very clear. Study after study shows conclusively that lowering the BAC limit, lowering the legally allowable limit of blood alcohol concentration from .08 to .05, is going to reduce the number of injuries, reduce the number of fatalities and reduce the number of accidents that we have on our city roads. That means, perhaps more than most other measures that we can take as a Parliament, that we are going to see fewer Canadians killed as a result of taking this measure. Very simply, this is an initiative that we have to take.
We support the principle of this idea of reducing the blood alcohol concentration from .08% to .05%. This is a very important principle.
We have a few difficulties with the summary convictions and some of the penalties provided for in the bill, but we hope that in committee we will be able to make those adjustments.
There is no doubt that the principle of reducing the blood alcohol level is an important one. I certainly congratulate the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for bringing this forward. The NDP had produced this and we are glad to have the idea taken. We hope that Parliament will support this measure so we can reduce the carnage on our nation's highways, reduce the accident rate, reduce fatalities and see more Canadians living the healthy productive lives that we wish for everyone.
Private Members' Business
Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise and speak today to Bill C-376, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
The bill proposes to create a criminal offence for having a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 50 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood or being over 50 as it is commonly called.
I would like to take this moment to congratulate the hon. member and my colleague here from Kelowna—Lake Country for bringing this legislation forward. I know he has worked closely with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada on the drafting of this bill.
Combating impaired driving is a non-partisan issue. Repeatedly, all parties in the House have cooperated to amend the Criminal Code to make its provisions more effective in detecting and convicting those who drink and drive.
Indeed, the House currently has before it Bill C-32 in which the government has proposed major amendments that respond to concerns that have been expressed by law enforcement and prosecutors for many years.
I expect that all parties will consider carefully the presentations that will be made in committee by witnesses and we will work together to craft amendments if it becomes apparent that Bill C-32 could be improved.
If it should be the will of the House that Bill C-376 receive second reading and be referred to committee, I trust that the committee will have the same attitude toward this private member's bill.
If it is clear that this bill or this bill with amendments will be an effective tool in the fight against drinking drivers, then I am sure it will be supported. However, there are many issues that will have to be considered before a decision can be made.
It is important that we make the best use of our limited police, prosecution and court resources in this field of policing and criminal justice as we do in all other areas. We need to determine whether a Criminal Code offence for being over .05, combined with provincial administrative measures, is the best way to deal with low blood alcohol content drivers.
When Bill C-376 was tabled, Mothers Against Drunk Driving issued a press release supporting it and explained its benefits. The bill does not simply amend the code to substitute the over .08 with the over .05. Instead, it introduces new elements.
First, the new offence would be enforceable by a ticket.
Second, the penalties for the .05 offence would be less onerous than those for the .08 offence. A first conviction would be punishable by a $300 fine and a 45 day federal driving prohibition. Subsequent offences would be subject to a $600 fine and a 90 day federal driving prohibition.
Third, offenders who did not have a subsequent impaired driving conviction within two years would be deemed not to have a criminal record for the .05 offence.
As Mothers Against Drunk Driving stated in its release:
In summary, the proposed .05 BAC offence is designed to deter impaired driving without being unduly punitive or creating unacceptable burdens on the police and the courts. Moreover, the option of pleading guilty without having to go to court may discourage accused persons from needlessly challenging the charges.
Those are worthy goals, but I would ask members to also consider certain issues with respect to the proposed offence and the way it would be enforced to determine whether the goals would be achieved.
I believe that having less punitive measures for over .05 than for over .08 is appropriate. In the paper “BAC to the Future,” also on MADD's website, there is a table showing that a male who is 35 years of age is at three times the risk of a fatal crash at blood alcohol contents of .02 to .049, six times at blood alcohol contents of .05 to .079, and 11 times from .08 to .099. The risk rises exponentially with every drink thereafter. A 35-year-old male driver in the .10 to .149 blood alcohol content range is 29 times as likely to be in a fatal accident.
Proponents of criminal sanctions beginning at .05 suggest that the greatest safety gains might come not from deterring the social drinker but by convincing those drivers who have been driving at high blood alcohol contents to take one or two fewer drinks. They are still a danger to themselves and others but, if we follow the curve, they are less of a danger.
Obviously there will always be a degree of arbitrariness in setting a criminal level for blood alcohol concentration. The person who has a blood alcohol concentration of .079 is essentially at the same level of risk as the person who has a blood alcohol content of .081. However, the first has not committed a criminal offence and the second has, although the police would probably not lay a charge where the person is that marginally over.
One benefit of a new .05 offence is that these drivers would face something more serious than a brief suspension imposed at the roadside. Members would need to decide whether making over .05 a criminal offence is appropriate given that they are a greater danger than the sober driver but not as dangerous as the driver who is over .08.
If it is considered appropriate to make over .05 a criminal offence, members will need to consider the merits in the creation of a ticketing regime under the Criminal Code as is proposed in Bill C-376. The idea is innovative and the drafters have developed a detailed proposal. I suspect that when most of us hear about a ticket we think about a speeding ticket filled out at the side of the road. The police officer gives the ticket to the driver and they both go on their way. One is happy and one is not so happy. The police submit the ticket and the driver can either mail in the stipulated fine or contest the ticket. If the driver does nothing, he or she will be found guilty and the province will take measures to collect the fine.
This proposed ticket in Bill C-376 is very different. Criminal Code convictions are based on an approved instrument reading at the police station, not on the reading of a screening device used at the roadside. Failing, the screener gives the officer reasonable grounds to demand that the driver come to the station to be tested on the approved instrument.
To prove the new over .05 offence, the police would need to take the driver to the station. They also would need to fingerprint the driver so that the police information system can keep track of the convictions. Moreover, the driver would not be able to simply mail the fine in. The driver would need to attend at a court within 21 days to pay the fine and have imposed a prohibition from driving.
In these circumstances, I question whether this ticketing scheme will be used very much by the police. When they stop the driver who blows under .08 but over .05 at the roadside, will they take the driver back to the station and wait around while he consults counsel? I suspect the officer will be more likely to impose the short provincial roadside suspension in order to leave him or herself free to deal with much more dangerous drivers with high blood alcohol contents.
In summary, Bill C-376 addresses a serious concern and it should be given due consideration by this House. However, we must hear from the police, prosecutors, provincial licensing officials and all stakeholders. We must ensure that any change we make will work on the ground.
Private Members' Business
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
I also would like to congratulate the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for being very proud of his heritage and, I would say, his cultural icon, which is what I would call Napa North in the Okanagan, Osoyoos and other winemakers in the area who truly make the Okanagan a national treasure.
If I may move from championing the delicate and notable passion for spirits and wine to the abhorrence of the abuse of alcohol in speaking about Bill C-376, I do so now by way of background.
This past week, a provincial court judge, Judge Sylvio Savoie, rendered a decision giving a repeat drunk driver in my jurisdiction of Moncton a sentence of five years in prison when the prosecuting team only asked for four. This case is illustrative of what the problem with impaired driving is. We have a problem of repeat offenders, people who are not sensible, who do not seem to react to the penalties and who continue to drink and drive.
Last year a couple was killed on Salisbury Road outside of Moncton because of the actions of a drunk driver travelling in the opposite direction who had a previous conviction under the laws of Canada for impaired driving and who had been seen before the accident wavering in the traffic but who was not caught in time to save the destruction of this family. This couple had two children who are now orphans.
We have a problem of resources of policing and detection of people who are drunk and driving. We have a problem generally, therefore, of deterrence. The question that remains about Bill C-376 is whether this very well intended law will be effective in deterring drivers from getting behind the wheel drunk and whether it will be effective in keeping our communities safe.
In addition to lauding the efforts of the hon. member, I want to laud the efforts of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which, in addition to initiatives such as this, has suggested over the years more vigilance in the detection of impaired drivers, more resources for policing so the detection can take place, and certain advanced suggestions, such as installing ignition controls for those who are repeat offenders in the realm of impaired driving for people whose BAC, blood alcohol limits, have been elevated before as found in the courts of law.
We do have some concerns with the bill. If the bill is presented to the justice committee we hope the hon. member will take some counsel, not only from the committee but perhaps from the speeches in the Commons this evening and at another time, and perhaps listen to some advice with respect to how to make the bill passable, effective and perhaps even better so that his objectives can be met.
One of the suggestions that seems very clear to us is that the criminalization of the activity has some enduring effects that may go beyond even his intention of punishing the drivers who are driving impaired and, more important, deterring such activity in the future.
While we know that the bill as stated attempts to expunge the record of a person convicted of an offence under the bill after two years of essentially non-criminal activity behind the wheel, we also know that our neighbours to the south and, indeed, internationally treat the record of having had a criminal conviction differently.
In Canada we have a system of pardons that work well with respect to federal and provincial institutions. It does not, however, work currently at the border we have with the United States of America. Unless the member can demonstrate otherwise to the committee and work assiduously to help us in this regard, somebody convicted of the offence of .05 might be faced with the prospect of being banned for life from going to the United States of American because of being convicted under this offence.
What I think the member is attempting to get at is to deter people from getting behind the wheel. He is trying to do it in a sensible way by lowering the threshold to stop people from drinking and driving. I do not think he is intending to ruin people's lives forever by instituting this law. That must be addressed.
We must also take into account what the experts are saying. While my friend in the New Democratic Party says that studies are replete with the effectiveness of .05, he may be mistaken, and the committee will delve into this should the bill be forwarded to committee, between the difference of a bill which criminalizes the activity as opposed to the various provincial statutes that are in place which have very deleterious effects on a person's ability to drive in the future, as opposed to criminalizing the activity.
It is very important to remember that 9 out of the 10 provinces and three territories already have deleterious effects for driving over .05. This stops people from driving for a period of time which is a good deterrent for most people and is certainly very preventive to the public.
I add the Canada Safety Council's words and those of the eminent law professor, David Paciocco, who has opined on this subject, to suggest that internationally the trend toward criminalizing activity is not where the world is going. The trend toward lowering levels for detection and deterrents with civil consequences, losing a driver's licence and privileges, is where the effectiveness resides. It is the trend which I urge the hon. member to look at.
Mr. Emile Therien, former president of the Canada Safety Council, said on another plane that the most egregious cases of impaired driving deal with people whose blood alcohol content is sky high. The two cases I have mentioned in the course of my comments were such cases: excessively elevated blood alcohol content, repeat offenders seemingly not deterred by the most severe sentences, certainly over .08.
Mr. Emile Therien said that the priority must be to prevent alcohol related crashes, not just to punish drinking drivers. He said that most drivers involved in alcohol related fatal crashes have BACs over .15. That is the group the government should focus on.
Private Members' Business
The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie
Order. I am afraid the hon. member is going to have to end it there because the time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
It being 7:19 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 7:20 p.m.)