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Evidence of meeting #4 for Justice and Human Rights in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was code.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Greg Yost  Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Hal Pruden  Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Phil Downes  Representative, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers
Jan Westcott  President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Distillers

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

Mr. Westcott, you'll have to wrap up.

4:55 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Distillers

Jan Westcott

All of these warrant our attention. But at a time when public resources are already stretched to the breaking point, we think it would be a serious misapplication of resources to lower the existing 0.08 criminal threshold to target the 5% who had BACs between 0.05 and 0.08, instead of taking more aggressive action to attack the 85% who are seriously beyond the current 0.08 threshold.

I'll stop there. Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

Thank you so much.

We'll move on to our first questioner for seven minutes. Mr. Murphy, go ahead, please.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Is it five, six, or seven?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

We're doing it again. It's seven and seven.

Mr. Moore.

February 23rd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Are you saying that we start the whole rotation over again? This is all one meeting, is it not?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

It is one meeting.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

I just want to be clear on this. We're starting over from...?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

I'm going from my experience in the last committee when in fact we typically would start over when we had new witnesses.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I'm quite happy, Mr. Chair, to take five minutes because we have only thirty.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

Okay, we'll go with five.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Thank you both for your presentation.

Most of my questions will be for Mr. Downes.

I'm a lawyer but not a criminal lawyer. In the first part of your presentation--you might have been joking, and that's fine, since I like a good joke as well as anyone does--you said, and you were speaking for an organization, that you really don't care what the limit is. I'd ask you to revisit that, because whether it's 0.05, 0.06, 0.07, or 0.08, it's a serious offence and it has serious consequences for clients that your group represents. There's a serious public interest in trying to make it work to prevent accidents. Unlike stealing a chicken or breaking and entering, where there is physical evidence of a wrongdoing, this is an offence that prevents a wrongdoing, in a sense. If you're over the limit and driving a car, but you haven't done anything yet, the proof is in the actual potential for doing harm. Therefore, the potential for doing harm as evidenced by a BAC is very much the crux of the matter.

Would you like to revisit that and tell me seriously what criminal defence lawyers think is an appropriate blood alcohol content limit?

5 p.m.

Representative, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

Phil Downes

I didn't mean at all to give the impression that we don't think there's significance to that choice. All I'm saying is that for the purposes of my submission to this committee.... There are many people who can tell you about the research on blood alcohol levels, the effects in other countries, whether it's good, whether it changes behaviour, whether it's a deterrent, and what impact it has on people. I'm not saying that's not an important public policy issue at all. Clearly it is, but for the purposes of my comments to you, what we think is significant is a decision or an issue that we, as criminal defence lawyers, don't have any particular monopoly or insight into. We do, however, have insight into how these issues affect the practice of criminal law and the efficiencies of the criminal justice system.

I take your point, but I wasn't trying to be at all humorous about it. I just think we want to recognize our appropriate place here in terms of the interests we represent.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I get that, but time is short, so I'll move on to the next point about alcohol ignition interlock devices.

I know this is somewhat unrelated to what you do, but in this time when we're asking auto companies for concessions toward greener cars and so on, is it a good time for us to all pitch in and say that the auto makers should move more strenuously toward making these available, affordable, etc.?

5 p.m.

Representative, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

Phil Downes

Again, I don't want to stray outside of our particular expertise, but I think you're absolutely right. They work. They have the deterrent effect, and they prevent people, especially repeat offenders, from drinking and driving.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

It's precisely the thing we all might be able to use in suggesting that auto makers step up to the plate.

Mr. Westcott, would you care to comment on trying to get auto makers more attuned to alcohol ignition interlock device needs?

5 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Distillers

Jan Westcott

I think it's an interesting idea, just as they've built mechanisms in cars to accept cell phones, MP3 players, and those sorts of things, but if we're going to be asking auto makers to install these devices in their cars, are we also going to ask them to put in devices that will report when you're too tired or when you've been working too long when you're driving home? There is as much data coming out of the road safety people that talks about inattention and fatigue causing accidents and causing death on the highways as there is about alcohol. I'm not defending alcohol. It's a terrible problem we have to fix. I think it may be appropriate to ask auto makers to start looking at how they can design their cars so that these devices can be incorporated into them, but is it appropriate for General Motors to put these in their cars for everybody? I don't believe so.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

Thank you.

Before we move on to the next question, I'm going to seek your guidance.

I think we have agreement that questions will be five minutes in length, but if we were to follow the normal rotation, as if we hadn't started a new one, the next three questions would be from the Conservative side of the table. Does everyone understand that?

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

In the normal rotation, nobody speaks a second time until everyone has spoken once. In order to achieve that goal, which I understand has been articulated at this committee a number of times, we would require three more Conservatives.

5 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

We're starting all over again with a new witness. In such instances, we follow the agreed upon rotation. I am ready to take three minutes. I have only one question. But, to be courteous, we could go directly to Mr. Norlock, because has hasn't yet spoken. However, we cannot give the floor to three Conservative members in a row. That would not be in keeping with the rules adopted by the committee.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

Mr. Moore.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Just so we don't waste the limited time we have on this, why don't we try to speed things up? Mr. Ménard had mentioned three minutes, but it is something we're going to have to revisit in the future when we have split witnesses.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Fast

I agree. So if we can do it in three minutes, I'll try to be as fair as possible. We'll do one question from the Bloc, one from the NDP, and then, if we could, we can fill the rest of the time with the Conservative ones. Is that reasonable?

5 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

That's charitable, but unreasonable.