Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak in support of the motion before the House. In my opinion the motion is long overdue. Canadians have been looking for this for a long time. It certainly deserves the support of members on both sides of the House.
My good friend from Prince George—Bulkley Valley brought this motion to the floor of the House in the spring of this year when the election came along and intervened. I respectfully ask that we as members of the House of Commons dispense with all our partisan beliefs in this regard and pass the motion.
The subject before us transcends all the political differences we might have and should unite us in a common cause. The motion is not reflective of any particular political party or party ideology. It is an effort that seeks only to protect Canadians. Nothing more and certainly nothing less is being asked for.
We have all heard the horror stories associated with drinking and driving. Some members have already shared their stories with us. The yearly carnage which is altogether senseless and tragic must come to an end.
I happened to make a decision a number of years ago to abstain from alcohol. Part of my reasoning was that I did not want to be responsible for passing along something to my children which perhaps I could handle but which they could not. I certainly did not want to get into the situation where I was responsible for taking the life of another person while drinking and driving.
Abstinence is still the best preventive. However we have freedom of choice in the use of this legalized drug. People will continue to choose to drink. Unfortunately some will choose to drink and drive.
I do not delude myself into believing that the passage of the motion will stop people from dying in these kinds of accidents. However it will go a long way toward giving the family and friends of victims some semblance of closure and the notion that justice was served.
The greatest value of this initiative may be in its deterrent value to new drivers. Indeed they are the ones who need to be educated at an early age on the perils of driving while impaired. Those who unfortunately are repeat offenders would only likely be stopped by some kind of punitive sanction such as a stiffer sentence.
Organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving tell us that the status quo in sentencing can no longer be tolerated.
There have been far too many tragedies. We have buried too many loved ones. As the father of eight children, every time they go out in a vehicle at night I pray to God they will come home safely. It is not because I am worried they will be drinking and driving. It is the other person who is out there that I am worried about.
In 1967 my wife's sister, at 21 years of age and newly married, was driving down a road in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband. A drunk driver went through a stop sign and broad sided their car. She was thrown out on to the pavement, hit her head and had severe brain damage. She went into a coma for three months. She lost the use of one of her legs and one of her arms. Miraculously she has regained a large measure of the use of those limbs, but today she still lives with the consequences of that accident. Her marriage dissolved. She limps. She has constant pain. That driver got off with a $500 fine and a slap on the wrist in 1967. That is not acceptable, not at all.
It has been said before by the survivors of these kinds of accidents, and it deserves to be said again, that victims should not be paying the penalty for impaired driving.
Here is some information that shows how much of a problem driving while impaired has become. In 1992 an Ottawa Sun editorial pointed out that over 13,000 people that year were killed or injured because someone drove while impaired.
In 1994, 1,414 were killed as a result of impaired driving. This is roughly three times the number of people murdered in Canada every year, but one could argue that this is essentially the same thing. Does it matter whether one holds a gun to the head of someone and shoots it or whether one is out there driving a car while drinking?
I ask my colleagues to think about that number, 1,414. If this Chamber were made four times larger it would not hold all those people. In 1993, 565 of the 1,315 people who died on Ontario roads were involved in alcohol related accidents.
I also want to share some additional information with colleagues as it relates to the cost of drinking while driving, while intoxicated. By cost I refer to the price in lives and suffering as well as monetary. Some 4.5 Canadians are being killed by impaired drivers each day. That is one every six hours according to studies by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation of Canada. It also found that impaired drivers caused over half of Canada's 3,300 road fatalities in 1995. This means the chances of being killed by an impaired driver are three times greater in Canada than being killed as a result of homicide.
Fatalities are not the only sad statistic. In 1993 a Transport Canada study revealed that over 300 Canadians each day are being injured as a result of an alcohol related crash. In addition, these injuries and fatalities effect not only the victims but society as a whole.
In 1989 Transport Canada found that the minimum losses to society total $390,000 per fatal crash. That figure represents the loss in terms of income, property damage and related cost to health care.
We must bring justice to the families of victims and stiffen the sentencing of offenders. Members in the Chamber need not take my word that Canadians find the situation intolerable. In the recently released paper prepared by MADD and alluded to by my colleague, we have all the reasons Canadians believe the penalties should be stiffer. Canadians have spoken and we as parliamentarians who represent them need to act.
I close on that note. Again I urge members to put aside partisan politics and vote in support of the motion for the good of the country.