Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute some remarks to the debate on Bill C-46, an amendment to the criminal code dealing with alcohol ignition interlock devices. I also appreciate the opportunity to express my gratitude to the government, which is something in my eight year history as a member of parliament that I have seldom had the opportunity, or one may even say, the will to express. I do thank the government for belatedly moving on this very important issue.
As has been said by a number of opposition members who have spoken to the legislation, there is universal support for it by all parties in the House of Commons. That is why there is agreement to move expeditiously today to deal with all stages of the bill and see it sent to the other place as quickly as possible.
The issue is of importance to me as an individual parliamentarian. I introduced a private member's bill on the issue on October 27, 1997, over four years ago, Bill C-266. For the interest of the House I will read the summary of Bill C-46, the legislation we are debating today, an act to amend the criminal code (alcohol ignition interlock device programs) and the summary of the bill I presented four years ago.
The summary of Bill C-46 states:
This enactment amends the Criminal Code to allow the court to authorize repeat offenders subject to driving prohibition orders to drive, if they register in a provincial alcohol ignition interlock device program. The enactment provides that no authorization has effect until a minimum period of prohibition has been completed of 3, 6 or 12 months for a first, second or subsequent offence, respectively.
Bill C-266, an act to amend the criminal code (alcohol sensing ignition control for automobiles), had first reading four years ago on October 27, 1997. The summary of that very short bill stated:
The purpose of this enactment is to allow a judge, in sentencing a person for an impaired driving offence, to suspend part of any fine, imprisonment, prohibition or probation order if the offender undertakes to install an alcohol-sensing ignition control on every motor vehicle the offender operates. Failure to comply with the undertaking would reactivate the suspended part. The court may also make such installation a condition of a probation order.
As I said, I commend the government for moving on this issue. It certainly is something that has been supported not only by me by putting forward private member's legislation, but by a lot of people over the last number of years. I think it was the member from the New Democratic Party who referred to the CBC program Marketplace . Back in 1996 and 1997, in a similar timeframe to when I was drafting my bill, it did programs on the issue and how it would help to keep dangerous drunk drivers off our nation's highways and roads.
The issue is why it takes the government so long to enact something which obviously has universal support among all parties.
As previous speakers have said, it is something that unfortunately does not happen very often in this place. Given the seriousness of a lot of issues facing Canadians from coast to coast, we would think we would see more legislation coming forward that could be unanimously supported and put through this place in a timely fashion. However that does not seem to be the case.
It is especially important, as others have noted, that the legislation would receive all party support at this time of the year. Everybody is well aware that one of the unfortunate byproducts of the holiday season is an increase in the number of people who drink and drive. The unfortunate reality is that we also see an increase in the number of injuries and fatalities on our nation's roads because of that.
It is almost rare to find a Canadian family that has not through its extended family and friends suffered a serious injury or a death from drinking and driving. Young people are paralyzed and spend the rest of their lives in wheelchairs because either they were hit by a drunk driver or they made the tragic error in judgment of getting into a vehicle where the driver was impaired. They pay an horrendous price for it.
It is appropriate that the government has chosen to bring forward the legislation because of the particular time of year. It is also appropriate that all parties in the House would be supportive of it.
I would like to explain the alcohol ignition interlock device. It is a sophisticated breath alcohol testing instrument which is installed in a vehicle in such a way that links its operations to that of the electrical ignition starter and other onboard systems in the vehicle. The instrument is similar in size to and closely resembles a microphone or car phone. Users must take and pass a breath test before the vehicle can be started or driven.
Retests are also required at random times as long as the engine is running. In other words, if drivers have this device installed in the vehicle, not only do they have to blow into the breathing apparatus in order to get the vehicle started but also at random times during the operation of the vehicle, especially if it is a prolonged trip. There would be a warning light or horn sound and at that time drivers would have to blow into the device again to check that they had not been drinking and driving.