That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider strengthening penalties in those sections of the Criminal Code which deal with impaired driving offences in order to: (a) enhance deterrence; and (b) bring the penalties into line with the seriousness of the offence.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off the debate on this very important Motion No. 78.
I was also pleased to take part in the kick off for the red ribbon campaign by the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers which occurred on Parliament Hill over the weekend. This campaign involves tying red ribbons around the antennas of vehicles through the holiday season to tell people that they should not drink and drive and to publicize the epidemic in this country of drinking and driving.
Last year MADD Canada distributed over three million red ribbons to tell people about the hazards and the consequences of drinking and driving. This year they expect and hope to have a red ribbon on every single antenna of every single car in Canada. I absolutely support that and I will do whatever I can to promote it.
September 19 was the last time I spoke in the House on the important issue of impaired driving. That was the third and final hour of debate on my Bill C-201. The bill would have established minimum sentencing and stronger deterrents against impaired driving in particular to deal with people who choose to drink and drive and as a result kill. Unfortunately, Bill C-201 was narrowly defeated in this House by 31 votes, with the help of the Bloc members almost all of whom voted against it, and with the help of many of the Liberal members who voted against this bill.
I did receive support from some of the Liberal backbenchers, from numerous NGOs, including MADD Canada, and tens of thousands of Canadians across the country. Despite the defeat of Bill C-201, this support has only strengthened my resolve to push forward to ensure that some day the federal government will take the lead in developing measures to combat impaired driving in this country.
Once again I remind members of the Liberal Party opposite that this issue transcends all political lines. It is an issue that is so important in the minds of Canadians yet Liberal government members refuse to grasp that. They play party politics with the lives of Canadians.
I would like to thank the Liberal members who did support Bill C-201. On behalf of hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of Canadians who are keenly interested in this issue, I know that their appreciation has been shown as well.
For those Liberal and Bloc members who opposed it, I sincerely hope on behalf of all of Canada's impaired driving victims that they see the value of Motion No. M-78. I hope that they see this as an opportunity to get into real and positive debate on the issue of impaired driving. I hope the comprehensive approach to impaired driving that Motion No. M-78 offers will give the Liberals some comfort zone that it will not go against their policy or philosophy of being soft on crime.
We all have our own ideas of how to combat impaired driving. Motion No. M-78 gives the government, particularly the Minister of Justice, as well as the Bloc members the opportunity to discuss Motion No. M-78 in the justice committee setting. They could bring forward their ideas and witnesses would appear. It would bring this terrible, senseless and 100 per cent preventable crime to the forum that it deserves, the justice department of the Government of Canada.
Almost every province has taken action on this issue. Almost every province has taken steps to deal with the crime of impaired driving in a way that reflects the severity and epidemic state of this crime, but the Liberal government has refused to follow their lead. It is the very government that should be setting an example in being proactive on the issues which concern the Canadian people, but the Liberal government has refused to deal with impaired driving to treat the issue with the respect and seriousness it deserves.
Ontario has recently followed the lead of many other provinces and introduced a 90-day roadside licence suspension. Other provinces have lowered the blood alcohol content for temporary suspensions and have established higher mandatory minimum licence suspensions for those convicted of impaired driving. Some provinces have set lower BAC limits for young drivers. Some will impound the vehicles of individuals who are caught while driving under suspension. These are positive steps, just a few of the efforts that have been put forward by some of the provinces.
What does the federal Liberal government which should be the leader in this country do? It refuses to deal with the issue. What efforts have come from the Liberal government? None. Just opposition. What proposals have come from the Liberal government? None, even though it voted against Bill C-201.
If the government had been seriously concerned about the issue of impaired driving, it could have brought forward its own proposals. I do not care whether it wants to take some sort of recognition for dealing with impaired driving and leave my bill on the sidelines. The issue is that the government has an obligation to the Canadian people to deal with this issue which is of great concern and it has refused.
The pleas of victims of impaired drivers and their families have been met with opposition and silence from the Liberal government. In 1995, 1,650 Canadians were killed by impaired drivers. I understand that after my presentation the member for Halifax is going to stand up and tell us that is not important.