Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on this motion which has to do with a much broader issue and which I know all members are very sensitive to. Indeed the issue of alcohol and its impacts and pervasiveness on our society is one of the most serious issues that a Parliament could face.
The motion before the House basically asks parliamentarians to request a House committee to review the issues related to deterrence and propriety of penalties with regard to impaired driving.
The issue of drunk driving has been with us for so long. We have heard the statistics over and over again, to the extent that I believe the public and parliamentarians have become desensitized to the seriousness of the problem.
I would like to share with the House and all hon. members some of the statistics to do with the misuse of alcohol. Over 19,000 deaths per year; 45% of all motor vehicle collisions; 30% of fires; 30% of suicides; 60% of homicides; 50% of family violence; 65% of snowmobile collisions; one in six family breakdowns; 30% of drownings; 5% of birth defects; 65% of child abuse; 40% of falls causing injury; 50% of hospital emergencies. There is over $15 billion of additional health care, social programs, criminal justice and lost productivity costs that all Canadians must pay for. All of these items are directly or indirectly caused by the misuse of alcohol.
I want to pay tribute to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. This organization has had a long history of advocacy with regard to alcohol. One of the founders of MADD, Mr. John Bates, has been a very dear friend and supporter of mine in alcohol related issues. They were here recently on the Hill. They have done an excellent job. I believe they are singularly responsible for this issue finally getting the attention in the House that it deserves. I congratulate them and thank them for doing a job very well on behalf of all Canadians.
This is not a simple issue. One thing is clear and everyone should understand that it is impossible to conceive how anyone could vote against this motion before the House today. Canadians should always expect their parliamentarians to determine and review to make sure that the very best job has been done with regard to deterrence against behaviour such as drunk driving. Canadians should also expect that the penalties associated with criminal offences are updated and appropriately put in place. That is what they expect of us. This motion does nothing more than simply ask parliamentarians to ask the justice committee to do that review and as appropriate to come back to this House with a bill to make any appropriate changes.
I certainly will be supporting this motion. I believe it transcends politics and the partisanship of politics. I believe and I hope that all parliamentarians will support unanimously this motion so that we can commence the process on dealing with a broader range of alcohol related problems in Canada.
I went through a list of direct or indirect consequences of alcohol misuse. I want to comment a little further on some others. In statistics I received from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse in its 1995 report, there are some 19,000 deaths per year.
One of the things I found astounding was an incident where a person who was impaired while driving a motor vehicle killed an innocent pedestrian. The pedestrian's loss of life was attributed to trauma, not to alcohol. When I see statistics dealing with alcohol, we have to ask questions about the dimensions: Are there directs and indirects included these numbers? I believe the numbers are far worse than anybody is prepared to publish.
Think of things like family violence. About a year ago there was a special conference on Parliament Hill co-sponsored by Health Canada, the equivalent agency in the United States and the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. The cost of spousal abuse and domestic violence in Canada was estimated to be $2.1 billion. Imagine the opportunity and the dimensions here and what we could do if we could get a handle on it.
I believe domestic violence is in much the same boat as drinking and driving in that we have become desensitized. This is 100% preventable. It is totally irresponsible and totally against the family and Canadian values that we hold so dear, yet we do not do anything about it. We tolerate it for who knows what reason, but it must stop. We can do better. We must do better.
One in six family breakdowns are due to alcohol misuse. Has anyone ever considered how pervasive the impacts of family breakdowns are? After the Vanier Institute said that the divorce rate was up to 50%, Statistics Canada said no, it is really only at 33%.
One of the things they all forgot about was the fact that over a million relationships in Canada are common law and totally escape the statistical analysis. Seventy-five per cent of common law relationships break down within the first five years. Of all those relationships, 60% of them involve children. The real victims of family breakdown are the children. Yet if we look at the statistics, one in six of those are directly due to alcohol.
Birth defects. Fetal alcohol syndrome accounts for about 5% of the birth defects. It costs Canada about $1.2 billion a year to deal with the additional health care, special needs and social costs associated with fetal alcohol syndrome.
If Canadians want a tax break, we could easily fund a tax break by dealing with some of these problems. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot be irresponsible in our actions and be spending billions of dollars for our carelessness and our irresponsibility and at the same time expect that we can do other things as well.
We have ways of ensuring that good things happen in Canada but we have to find new ways. We have to set a new urgency for all Canadians that we will not be desensitized any more.
In addition to addressing the issue specifically raised in the motion, there were two other items. One is health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages are the only consumer product in Canada that can hurt you if misused but which do not warn the consumer of that fact. Pills warn you not to drink when you take the pills, but the drink does not warn you not to take pills when you drink. It makes no sense. We have a bill before the House. Hopefully, we will get support.
The last item is Drink Smart Canada. I want to simply read into the record Drink Smart Canada's message: If you are with a friend, family member or acquaintance who is drinking and becoming at risk of hurting themselves and others, you should intervene in an appropriate fashion to make sure that they do not become just another tragic statistic.
We all have a role to play here. I am proud to support this motion and I thank hon. members for bringing it forward to the House.