House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was penalties.


SupplyRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It seems we can now call it 1.30 p.m. Is it agreed?

SupplyRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from December 2, 1966 consideration of the motion.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

February 7th, 1997 / 1:10 p.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address this issue today. The hon. member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley has moved a motion asking the government to strengthen penalties for impaired driving offences in order to enhance deterrence and bring the penalties into line with the seriousness of the offence.

Let me say for the record that I support the motion of the hon. member and I am happy to do so. I do, however, want to in my speech today broaden the debate around this whole issue and say as a starting point generally I support what works. I think the whole issue of drunken driving and how to solve the issue of excessive drinking and the problems that arise from it is a complicated one and there are no simple solutions.

I support the member's concern for ensuring that penalties for drunken driving are proportional to the crime. I believe that whether penalties currently provided for in the Criminal Code are proportional to the offence of drunken driving is a debatable point and I look forward to this bill's being approved and passed on to committee where it can be debated more fully.

In considering the deterrent effect of criminal laws and criminal penalties we have to take into account the different types of people who commit drinking and driving offences and how they might be best influenced. Not everyone has the same motivation depending on their age, their background and not everyone will be affected the same way by a change in the law.

I believe that people are deterred from drinking and driving by a host of factors. Criminal law penalties for drinking and driving are undoubtedly an important factor but, as I have said, not the only factor.

The challenge is to find the point at which criminal penalties do represent a strong deterrent and the point at which they do not. If we stray beyond that point we risk a situation where we have little return in terms of increased deterrence for the effort placed into increasing the penalties. Such a situation would tell us that our efforts to decrease drinking and driving could be better located in other areas that would bring significantly greater deterrence.

There seems to be at least four different kinds of people who commit drinking and driving crimes. I am not sure that all four types would response positively simply because the criminal penalties for drinking and driving crimes were increased from what they are.

First, there are the young people who commit drinking and driving crimes. Some of them are not even of legal drinking age. For many of these, illicit drinking is a form of rebellion or an expression of their growing desire to be an adult or a response to peer pressure, or a combination of these factors and others. A concurrent drinking and driving crime might simply by a response to the same factors that precipitated the illicit drinking. With young people who drink and drive there may be little or no thought about any of the potential consequences of drinking and driving, whether it be death, injury, criminal consequences or licence and insurance consequences, even if there is the sensation that "it won't happen to me"; that well known teenage sense that they are invulnerable may overcome good sense as it often does in other circumstances.

Perhaps increased deterrence might be best accomplished for young persons through the use of peer counselling or public education. I think it entirely possible that increased penalties under the Criminal Code would be somewhat in the bottom half of the list of measures that would actually deter these young people who commit drinking and driving crimes.

It is doubtful to me that increased criminal penalties would have any greater effect on the young person's decision about drinking and driving than the current criminal penalties have.

A second type of person who commits drinking and driving crime is the otherwise responsible adult drinker who in a moment of bad judgment drinks too much and then makes the alcohol impaired decision to drive or who drinks and then takes an irresponsible but calculated risk to drive. I imagine that such calculated risks typically focuses on the likelihood of detection by the police, that any thought about personal safety or the safety of others is put out of mind and does not enter the equation.

It seems to me that increasing the penalties for drinking and driving crimes would not do much to deter such persons. They are weighing out whether they will get caught. They are not concerned that the minimum penalty is at present $300 or $1,000 or that they might have to spend 30 days in jail as a minimum for a second offence rather than the present 14 days for a second offence.

This group might be better deterred by focusing on certainty of detection or alternatives to driving or on messages that will help the individuals to think about small but unacceptable risk of death or injury to self or others. In other words, we might be better off instead of spending money on putting more people in jail, to spend more money on police as a deterrence to drinking and driving.

Next, there would appear to be a group of people with unique problems who choose to drink and drive. These are the alcoholics who compound a drinking problem with driving after they drink.

I am careful to note that there are, on the other side of the matter, some persons who are alcoholics who very responsibly choose not to drive after they drink. They find other solutions to any transportation needs they have after they have been drinking.

Perhaps conquering the underlying alcoholism provides the best hope for alcoholics who drive after drinking. However, not all alcoholics are prepared to admit that they have a problem that requires treatment.

Certainly it seems important to encourage alternatives to driving after drinking, given that many alcoholics are not prepared to admit to a problem or to submit to treatment.

It should disturb all of us that if we are going to be sending more people to jail we need also to put in more resources within the jails so that they can bring in alcohol problems or drug abuse problems so that at the end of the day we find something that actually does work and helps solve the problem.

There is a fourth group of persons who commit drinking and driving crimes. These are the people who simply do not care what happens to themselves or to others as a result of their behaviour. If they want to drink, they do and if they want to drive, they will. If somebody gets killed or injured along the way, that is just the way it goes.

Increasing the penalties for Criminal Code drinking and driving offences would have no impact on this small but very frightening group. Ultimately the decision about drinking and driving rests with individuals of all types and minds.

For those of us who do not drink and drive, the solution seems simple. If you drink, do not drive. If you cannot stay where you are, have someone drive you. If you cannot walk or take a taxi, then do not drink.

While to you and me the risk, however remote, of having a tragic accident and killing someone if we were to drink and drive is likely to be a great deterrent, there are those who are simply not deterred by this thought, nor are they deterred by the criminal law consequences, whether they be present penalties or increased penalties.

For these reasons, rather than boosting criminal penalties, I would prefer to see further development of drinking and driving counter measures that aim to change attitudes to the point where driving and drinking become completely unacceptable in all circumstances, not only in those circumstances where death or injury occurs.

This would necessarily involve finding ways to help people keep their drinking separate from any driving. Efforts would have to be specific to the characteristics of the different groups that I have broadly set out so that there would be the greatest effect for the work that is done.

More important, individuals would have to begin taking responsibilities for what they do and say in their homes and schools, offices and communities to prevent drinking and driving.

I am not suggesting that criminal law penalties have no deterrent value; quite the contrary. We all know that they are. They are and our present penalties already hold significant deterrent value.

However, it is far more effective to combine criminal penalties with a range of other attempts to combat drinking and driving. Training for service personnel in bars and the use of designated non-drinking drivers are examples of efforts that help prevent drinking and driving.

Public education that raises the issue and helps young people to think of the consequences and to make the decision not to drive after drinking before they find themselves at a party is another example.

Families can encourage all family members to call for a ride with no questions asked should they ever drink and not have a method of transportation available. Similarly, families can encourage their members to call for help rather than accept a ride from a drinking driver.

In short, we have to make it socially unacceptable to drink and drive. We are now getting there. No doubt there are people who obey the law if only because it is the law. For others, the risk of death or of killing someone else is a far greater deterrent than the increased penalty that might be imposed under the criminal law in the event that they were detected and convicted.

It is clear that the largest percentage of victims among persons killed by drinking drivers are the drinking drivers themselves and their passengers, rather than the other people in vehicles or on foot.

Rather than looking at someone who tries to keep someone else from driving after drinking as a killjoy or a busybody, we need to reach the point where intervening is the socially responsible thing to do.

Criminal law can be asked to do its part to reduce drinking and driving. In my view it already does. Whether it could do more is a debatable point but we should not rely solely on the criminal law and we should allow other systems and other players to play a role in order to end the tragic waste brought about through drinking and driving.

It is a trap to think that only increased penalties under the criminal law can make a difference.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

1:10 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion. It reads as follows:

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.

At first glance we think that it is unacceptable for people to drive while drunk, and they should be very severely penalized. This is the kind of motion which demands that we look at the current situation and ponder whether the proposed solution is adequate.

After having consulted with the member for Berthier-Montcalm, our justice critic, and a number of experts on the subject, we have come to realize that the current penalties are quite significant and that the solution to this problem lies in more education.

What we need is more adds, more visits to schools and social clubs, we need to enlist the help of police officers who go into the schools and people who have speaking engagements with social clubs. This is the way to change behaviour, not by sentencing people to a couple more years under the Criminal code. The Criminal Code has already been strengthened and to further do it will not necessarily solve the problem.

I would like to tell you about Operation Nez rouge, an initiative which has been more productive than the punitive approach. It originated in Quebec and is now in operation across Canada. It came into being at Laval University, in Quebec City, as a fund raiser for the swim team. It has been growing since and has been extended to several provinces.

During the holidays, people tend to celebrate a lot and drink too much; they can call "Nez rouge" to have somebody drive them home. As a result the number of accidents has fallen sharply. This is the kind of behaviour we want to promote. While providing

transportation, we educate people. Over the years, they are getting the message. Solutions for the future lie in this kind of initiatives.

I will make another point, which might have some relevance for Reform members: in some provinces, deterrents are combined with provisions under the Criminal Code. In Quebec, each time a person is sentenced to a six month suspension of their driver's licence, the agency responsible for the driver's licence system automatically doubles the suspension, which goes up to a year. There already is a deterrent. We have taken measures in this regard. Drivers are aware of these regulations. The deterrent effect of losing one's licence is doubled.

For repeat offenders, the penalty is stiffer. When someone is caught a second time, the penalty is much stiffer. Instead of, say, a six month suspension, the licence is suspended for a year or two; so there is definitely an additional penalty. A second suspension almost automatically means that the person will not be allowed to drive for a very long time.

These are measures that already exist. They are in place and they are effective. Adding to or strengthening the penalties set out in the Criminal Code as proposed in the motion will not give better results. The law already acts as a deterrent.

The kind of behaviour that leads a person to drive while he or she is impaired and should not be driving requires preventive action. People have to make it a habit not to let a relative or a friend leave with the car when he or she is not fit to drive. Strengthening penalties in the Criminal Code by two or three years will not keep someone who has had one drink too many from driving. It is a habit that has to be acquired.

I would like to draw your attention to the second part of the motion, which says that penalties should be brought into line with the seriousness of the offence. We think that penalties already are in line with the seriousness of the offence. The impaired driver who has not caused any damage will not receive the same sentence as the one who has caused physical injury or any other kind of damage.

This judicial discretion granted to the judges is, in fact, being used adequately and it does send a message to the accused. Judges can take it into consideration. I think judges should be able to continue to pass sentences according to the directions they are given, and to use their discretion to determine how serious the offence and the impacts are and to bring the penalties in line.

We are also against this motion, because it implies that there are currently no deterrent provisions in the Criminal Code, as if there is a free for all, as if drunken drivers face no or minimal penalties, which is not true, because we do have deterrent provisions.

The motion implies that there is an inequity in the sentences handed out, but when we look at those sentences, we find no evidence of such a thing in the court decisions. Of course, if we go for sensationalism, if we read reports in the Saturday or Sunday newspapers about terrible accidents and horrible situations, it may make us lean toward the motion before us. However, we have to look more closely at these kinds of situations. We have to get a true picture of what is going on. We also have to determine who is responsible in that area of jurisdiction. For instance, are the provinces taking their responsibilities? Are the measures suggested here not similar to what Quebec is already doing, which is doubling the penalties for anyone who loses his or her driving licence following a Criminal Code offence?

For all these reasons, we think that the authorities are already taking their responsibilities properly. We think that the measure suggested in this motion would not help to sufficiently change drivers' attitudes within two, three, four, five or even ten years. The number of people who drink and drive will not decrease because the penalties are be more severe. We already have very severe penalties.

In conclusion, we think more ought to be done in terms of education and the provinces, the not for profit organizations dealing with such issues, and the people fighting alcoholism ought to be given the means to do their jobs. Let us give them funds to enable them to intervene in their sector of activity. Then we will really be serving society.

The punishment underlying the motion before us will not resolve anything, except to send the message, in an approach I would call superficial and election oriented, that we can resolve the sort of problem we run into with this sort of solution. It seems to me to be a bit like the case of the adolescent who gets his knuckles rapped instead of an explanation of why his behaviour is unacceptable. The second or third time his knuckles are rapped, he does not even remember any more whether it hurts. However, if time were spent educating him so he understood what was going on, most times his behaviour could be changed to something more socially acceptable. I think this is more the way of the future.

I hope the House rejects this motion and that, if the situation is ever debated again, it is with a view to understanding how the problem can really be solved, because we see here an attitude similar to the attitude of the Reform Party in many other instances. The way to resolve things is to come down hard on people's knuckles, and yet the problems require a much more subtle approach.

I think the members tabling such motions should go into each community and see how things work. Let them look at the results. Let them ask what the numbers are so that, based on the consequences that are known, we can take appropriate measures and not simply go for sensationalism.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak today on the motion of my hon. colleague from Prince George-Bulkley Valley. The motion to get it clear is not overreacting; it is simply a motion which states:

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.

I have four adult boys. They are normal young men who are enjoying life to its fullest. Every night when they leave the house I worry that they will become a statistic because somebody else is out there drinking and driving. I share that worry with most parents across this country.

I have had the unfortunate circumstance of talking to parents who have been in the position of having lost children to an impaired driver. One of my board members is a father whose son and grandchildren were quickly killed by an impaired driver in Prince George, B.C.

A father encouraged me to get involved in a campaign he is starting up to go across Canada with the message that drinking and driving kills. He lost his young 23-year old son who was just beginning life, full of opportunities. Early one evening an impaired driver went through a stop sign, ran into his vehicle and killed him instantly.

That driver had had numerous impaired driving charges, had had his licence suspended and had been brought to the attention of the police twice that very same day, once for sideswiping parked cars while impaired and once for running red lights in the community while impaired. Was he taken off the streets, put away for the day, incarcerated or whatever because he had had impaired driving charges months before that? No, he was left on the street to continue to drive while impaired and in the evening he killed a young man who had had his whole life ahead of him.

People who drink and drive lack responsibility. They have choices. They can make a decision. They know there are penalties out there. They know their licences can be suspended but that does not seem to send a very strong message to them. They do not seem to consider the seriousness of what it is they are doing. I share the concerns of my hon. colleagues.

I will admit I had some problems with the private member's bill which said that if impaired driving caused death it should automatically be a seven year minimum sentence. If it was a first time occurrence, I thought that seemed a little bit harsh.

Since being elected to this place and in the true fashion of Reform, I put the issues to my constituents. Therefore I shared with them my concern that it might be a little harsh for a first time offender and asked what they thought about it. There were 3,685 constituents who responded to my questionnaire. The question was: Should anyone convicted of impaired driving causing death be sentenced to a minimum of seven years incarceration?

They answered the question knowing I was a little uncomfortable with it if it was a first offence. In response, 2,463 or 66.84 per cent said yes, they felt that there should be a seven year minimum charge. There were 1,082 or 29.36 per cent who said no. They shared my concern that in some circumstances it might be overreacting to it.

I have to believe that those people out there who dealt with the issue looked at it from their own circumstances and recognized that suspended sentences are not reducing people's use of alcohol and driving. A few months of incarceration is not stopping people from drinking and driving.

I will not argue with the Bloc and the Liberal members who say education is important. One thing that impresses me more than anything else is that because of the education on impaired driving and that driving and drinking can kill, young people today are far more responsible than people our age.

Young people today when planning an evening out in most cases will have a designated driver along with them. Young people today are more willing and more likely to leave their cars at home and take cabs or public transit. They are far more aware that drinking and driving might kill. However, that does not protect those young people from those among us in society who drink to extreme and then get behind the wheel, thus turning their vehicles into dangerous weapons.

Today of all days, when an individual tried to drive a vehicle into the House of Commons shows us that vehicles can be and are a dangerous implement. When that vehicle is put into the hands of somebody who has had too much to drink or is impaired because of other substance abuse, it is an extremely dangerous weapon on our streets.

Some of the crime statistics are quite frightening. People know there is a law against drinking and driving. We all know that those convicted of crimes while under the influence of alcohol are given

lenient sentences. Most of the support material in the Criminal Code are cases of impaired driving. Most of the Criminal Code book is a history of cases of impaired driving which have gone through the courts.

The Mothers against Drunk Driving have an ongoing campaign to bring forward things at which we should be looking, and the changes that should be made to legislation but they have not been very successful in convincing the government.

Some of the stats, as I mentioned, are quite frightening. I am going to use the stats from 1994 because those are the ones that I have at my disposal. There were 1,414 people killed in Canada as a result of impaired driving. When that figures is broken down it shows that 3.8 people each and every day are killed as a result of impaired driving. In Canada 311 people are injured each day by impaired drivers. The Ontario Medical Association estimates that it costs Ontario $100 million per year to treat impaired driving injuries. Another frightening statistic is that one out of five drivers every night are impaired.

Education is fine but people do ignore the message that is being put out loud and clear through MADD, the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers program, court programs for anyone who has had successive impaired driving charges; Alcoholics Anonymous programs and throughout out the schools systems. Do they help? I would suggest that from the statistics before us that people are ignoring the information. To consider it a social disease which is not recognized as being a criminal is naive. It is not only naive but it is a refusal to look at what is happening and to try and do something about it. It is naive to think that education is going to stop that kind of behaviour.

I come from a family which unfortunately has been touched by alcoholism. My father spent many years bringing treatment programs into the province of Alberta and is recognized for having done so. I believe that we have to consider alcoholism as a disease and treat it as such. But that does not stop us from saying that it is a criminal activity to drink and drive. We must do all that is in our power to see that is stopped.

I do not want to join the ranks of other parents who lose a child because of someone who drank too much, got behind the wheel of a vehicle, a very dangerous weapon under those circumstances and I would be left to mourn for the rest of my life.

I am in a position where I can try and do something about it. I do not think it is too much to ask this government to look at the Criminal Code and at changes that can be made to that federal legislation to send a strong message to people who will make the decision to drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive. It is not too strong a message to tighten up the Criminal Code and make the offences a whole lot stronger to get the killers off the streets.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to commend my colleague from Prince George-Bulkley Valley for demonstrating his leadership on this very serious issue.

As my colleagues who have spoken before me have mentioned, there is an epidemic taking place today, despite all the programs the police have established to catch drunk drivers.

The problems are many and it is worthwhile to establish what the problems are and the impact which these problems have within Canada today.

The cost to Canadian society of drunk driving is enormous. In 1994, 87,838 people were charged with impaired driving and l,414 people were killed. That is three times higher than the murder rate.

The government has made an enormous effort to implement laws and regulations to deal with gun registration. Those initiatives will have no effect whatsoever on decreasing the murder rate in Canada.

There is an epidemic within our midst that is causing three times as many deaths as homicides and the government has done nothing to address it. However, the government has an excellent opportunity. It could employ some of the ideas which are contained in Motion No. 78 to address the epidemic.

The cost is massive: almost $400,000 per fatal accident; $310,000 per fatality; $12,000 per injury. That is only the tip of the iceberg.

In my dealings with drunk drivers, both in the emergency departments of hospitals and in jails, I have noticed a couple of things. First, in a jail I was dealing with an individual who had been charged and convicted over 22 times with drunk driving offences. The individual laughed when talking about it and felt that it was a joke. The penalty is not a deterrent in its current form.

The second problem that exists is that it is extraordinarily difficult for the police to actually convict someone who has been drinking and driving. Currently it takes a police officer about six hours to do all the paperwork required to prosecute an individual for drunk driving. That is why when an individual is pulled over who is over the limit, a police officer would rather suspend the person's licence for 24 hours and send him or her home than actually go through the process of prosecuting. People who habitually abuse the system, who drink and drive, know that. They know that if they drink and drive, although the penalties are supposedly quite high, the actual penalties are quite low.

We must do a number of things. We must enable police officers to prosecute individuals who drink and drive in an expeditious manner.

An intelligent trial lawyer can get most people who are charged with drinking and driving off very easily through a number of

loopholes in the system. It extends right from the moment that the blood test is taken to the trial.

I cannot emphasize how important it is for the government to take initiatives to streamline the process and give our police officers a hand in deterring this epidemic. They must be able to send a clear message to people who are considering getting behind the wheel when drunk that it is not acceptable and if they are caught they will be prosecuted and levelled with a penalty which will be more than a slap on the wrist.

My colleague from Prince George-Bulkley Valley has put forward this motion to enable the House to put forward some very stringent penalties to deal with this epidemic. This is not something that is benign. The statistics prove the rate is very high. It is very costly to society.

It is incumbent upon us in this House to take the leadership role once again and demonstrate to the Canadian public that we are interested in their safety and we are going to put forward some intelligent ideas to address this problem. It also involves intelligent ways of dealing with the issue.

As my colleague before me just mentioned, alcoholism is a disease and it must be treated as such. That is why as part and parcel of the conviction for drunk driving, individuals who have committed this offence must have drug and alcohol abuse treatment as an obligatory part of their sentences. Merely sentencing them and sending them back on the street will do absolutely nothing to prevent this situation from occurring again. Drug and alcohol abuse is a complex situation and it must be addressed through counselling. Although counselling and treatment are not absolute solutions, we desperately need them.

One of the big problems in our penal institutions is that not enough emphasis is placed on the drug and alcohol abuse of those who are incarcerated in our penal institutions. A greater emphasis must be put on dealing with the drug and alcohol problems of these individuals instead of merely incarcerating them. Regardless of the reasons they were originally charged and convicted, it is important to make sure we break the cycle of crime, punishment and recidivism which tends to occur not infrequently in people who commit a wide range of criminal offences, be it drunk driving, murder, robbery, assault causing bodily harm and so on.

I once again commend my colleagues, especially my colleague from Prince George-Bulkley Valley for putting forward this motion which tries to address the epidemic of drunk drivers. I implore the government to take heed of his initiatives and to employ them.

I hope the government takes a leadership role with its provincial counterparts, the attorneys general from across the provinces. It could work with them to establish an effective way of preventing this problem through obligatory treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. It could impose significant penalties for those who choose to drink and drive and who get caught, also for those who drink and drive and commit offences in terms of the injuries that occur to defenceless and innocent civilians.

Getting behind the wheel of a car when you are drunk is akin to picking up a gun and shooting somebody. That car is a potential weapon. It is a lethal weapon that has been used with undue and tragic frequency within this country.

People often do not realize that there is sometimes a great deal of callousness and utter disregard for the pain and suffering of victims by some drivers when they get behind the wheel drunk and injure or kill somebody. I remember a tragic case in which a drunk individual killed a young man who was driving another car. Both the drunk fellow and his buddy were injured. He was conscious but his buddy was not. He grabbed his buddy, dragged him into the driver's seat and put himself in the passenger's seat. He was totally uncooperative with the police and he lied repeatedly throughout the process. He did everything he could to get off. There was no regard whatsoever for the young man I had to treat three bays down who had a massive head injury and was dying.

I implore the government to take heed of my colleague's initiatives which are constructive, worthwhile, productive and for the betterment and the health of all Canadians.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Motion No. M-78 introduced by my colleague from Prince George-Bulkley Valley.

Motion No. M-78 asks that the government consider strengthening penalties in those sections in the Criminal Code which deal with impaired driving offences in order to enhance deterrence and bring the penalties into line with the seriousness of the offence.

When we look at the facts they simply tell us that the problem is not being addressed or resolved. Drinking and driving is the largest single criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. I am going to repeat that because of the seriousness. Drinking and driving is the largest single criminal cause of death and injury in Canada.

The death rate from impaired driving is three to four times the national murder rate. To put this into perspective, in 1992 there were 732 homicides in Canada. During that same time there were 2,500 deaths resulting from impaired driving.

Clearly we have a problem and clearly we are not addressing that problem. It is in perceptions, I would suggest, that people seem to think that if they cause death or injury using a tonne of metal and plastic they are not capable of driving, that somehow it is okay, it is

not really their fault. I would suggest that it is their fault and that our law enforcement system and our court system in many ways are set up to shield these people. Again, it is goes back to what about the victim in these cases.

I would like to go through a number of facts to bring things into perspective. In 1994 alcohol was involved in 47 per cent of motor vehicle fatalities in Ontario and almost half of the traffic fatalities in British Columbia. In Ontario of the 176 pedestrians killed in 1994, 57 per cent involved the use of alcohol by either the victim or the driver of the vehicle.

We often forget to think about the passengers. We think about someone else being in another vehicle, but in the case of passengers in the vehicle with the impaired driver 25 per cent of fatalities are passengers.

Another terrible figure is 88 per cent of all persons killed in marine vehicle accidents involved alcohol. We tend to think of driving simply motor vehicles on the road. What about boats? In my province of British Columbia the police have cracked down, and rightfully so, on drinking while operating a boat because it has been terrible. People tend to say they do not want to drink and drive on the road but as soon as they get into their boat on the lake they think having a beer or many beers is okay. It is not okay because they are still driving a vehicle, and 88 per cent of all persons killed in marine accidents involved alcohol. That is a terrible statistic. How many more people have to die before something is done?

Clearly my colleague has addressed the situation. He said that we have a problem. All Canadians, every member of this House and all parties should say yes to this motion.

In 1995 Justice Peter Cory of the Supreme Court of Canada remarked: "Every year drunk driving leaves a terrible trail of death, injury, heartbreak and destruction. In terms of deaths and serious injury resulting in hospitalization, drunk driving is clearly the crime which causes the most significant social loss in this country".

Sixty-five per cent of all suspensions issued for impaired driving were issued for a second offence. What does this second offence tell us? Why in the world should we have to speak to the second offence or subsequent offences in drunk driving? There should not be a second offence.

The reason I say that is I was in Sweden a number of years ago. The Swedes enjoy having a drink and going out to have a good time. However, they would not dream of drinking and driving. Why? The penalties are there. I believe it was five years automatic at that time. The second time they are gone, no licence.

This is the type of penalty that we require. We have to get the attention of the drinking driver. That clearly has not happened.

An analogy was photo radar where part of the problem was political will. Let us remember the last election in Ontario and the antics the electorate went through about photo radar. I would suggest that the attitude on drinking and driving is similar. The public said it did not want photo radar. Speeding cars were killing people but the political pressure was enough for the Ontario government to pull out its photo radar. In fact, Ontario sold it to my province of British Columbia where it is being used and speeding has decreased.

I use that analogy because I believe it is the same mindset we are seeing with drunk driving: "While it is a problem, politically we do not think we should address it. Perhaps the next administration or the provincial government or someone else will deal with it". That simply is not happening.

What have we set up? We have set up a system where a good lawyer, as my colleague says, can get most people off. The court system is clogged. Most of the cases in court now deal with impaired driving and the penalties are simply not there. It is a mindset and an attitude that goes through our whole system. Clearly a wake-up call is required.

I hope my colleagues on all sides of the House will clearly consider this motion and pass it when it is voted on. Although it is a motion and not a bill, it will send a clear message to all governments to deal with this problem in a significant way and put deterrents and educational programs in place so that the deaths on our highways are put to an end.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this private member's motion my colleague from Prince George has put in. I applaud him for having done so in order to address this very serious problem of driving while intoxicated and drinking while driving.

I appreciate the support that has come from the other side of the House, the Liberal speaker, who addressed this. It is good to see that most people are behind this type of action being taken against individuals who choose to get behind this killing machine after they have been drinking.

The one thing I would like to point out in this moment that I have is the deterrent factor. A lot of times when we talk about bringing in harsh or stronger punishment for various offences that have been committed, people believe it is not the thing to do because it will not deter. I know that argument is holding true on capital punishment, for example. The argument against capital punishment, most of the time, is simply that it does not deter crime.

However, regardless of whether it does or does not deter crime, when the kind of punishment that this particular motion is calling for with regard to drinking and driving is put in, maybe a deterrent is not exactly the real message. Maybe the message should be that our system is failing in a great way in getting the punishment to fit the crime.

Let me give a couple of examples. We have individuals who are on trial or have been on trial and have been convicted of a certain type of crime, such as second degree murder in the case of Mr. Latimer out of Saskatchewan, and we have another individual who goes to trial who has originally been charged with first degree murder for viciously strangling his wife. I guess they proved that there was not any intent. They lowered the crime to manslaughter, which is a lesser crime than second degree murder. One must wonder about these two kinds of cases.

It is not that they are trying to deter an individual regardless of what they do. Does the punishment meet the crime? That is very important throughout our judicial system.

Probably the most obvious action taking place recently indicating that our justice system is designed to do other things is individuals such as Andy McMechan, who sold his own property across the border illegally, without a wheat board permit and was thrown into jail in handcuffs, taken to court in leg irons where he remained in jail for a fairly lengthy time.

The man did not steal anything. He did not assault anybody. He broke the law. No one is denying that. He simply did not get a wheat board permit to do what he did. Yet he is treated in this harsh manner, in this hard way while at the same time individuals who go into other people's homes on invasions and destroy the property, who steal or who assault, even sexually assault or rape someone, are loose and walking the streets.

What in the world is going on? When does the punishment fit the crime? This bill is designed to do just that.

I appreciate what the Liberal member said. It is not a matter of why teenagers drink, why alcoholics end up behind the wheel when

they are drinking. None of that is really important. The important part of this whole thing is that a message has to be sent to any individual, regardless of the circumstances, that if they drink and get behind the wheel, the penalty will be severe. Not that it deters anyone. I will not argue that. However, the penalty will be severe. It is not an acceptable thing to do in Canada. We are going to develop a lower tolerance level for this dangerous activity.

That is the message that needs to be sent. I hope all members would wisely support this unanimously and get it under way.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Agreed to on division.

(Motion agreed to.)

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there agreement to call it 2.30 p.m.?

Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Impaired DrivingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 2.30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m.

(The House adjourned at 2.16 p.m.)