Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party to speak to private member's Bill C-376 that has been brought forward by the member of Parliament for Kelowna—Lake Country, a person with whom I have worked in committee.
I would like to congratulate him for bringing this private member's bill forward. It is based on much of what we in the NDP presented in a private member's motion last April, Motion No. 29, which spoke specifically to reducing the possibility of blood alcohol concentration from .08 to .05, and also spoke about a policy of zero tolerance, including mandatory fines and jail time for impaired driving offences.
That was tabled in April and we had the private member's bill brought forward by the member for Kelowna—Lake Country at the end of October, so I congratulate him on bringing it forward.
I certainly agree in principle with this bill. There is no doubt about that. I believe that in committee we will be able to make some improvements, some concerns that I will raise a little bit later on, but there is no doubt in his conviction that he raises by bringing this bill forward. My concern, if there is one, is the fact that the government itself does not seem inclined to push this issue forward.
We know that this is an issue of major concern in communities across the country and indeed is, tragically, one of the chief causes of death, particularly among young Canadians. We definitely need, as a Parliament, in all four corners of this House, to move forward and reduce the allowable blood alcohol content. There is no doubt about that. The private member's bill does move that forward. I would certainly hope that the government is willing to push forward so that we have legislation like this in place.
I would like to pay tribute for a moment to the activists with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Indeed, the greater Vancouver chapter of MADD is located in my constituency, on 12th Street in New Westminster. I would like to pay tribute to Bob Rorison, who is the president, and Helen Hoeflicker, the past president of that chapter, as well as the board of directors including: Katie Gaba, Audrey Yan, Melissa Tyson, Wendy Tamminga, Krista Clark, Donnis Vanloo and Reza Sabour.
The board of directors of MADD in greater Vancouver play an active role, as well as the many volunteers who are involved in MADD, both in educating the public and particularly the young people about the consequences of drunk driving. They want to ensure that it does not happen and that tragedies are avoided, but also they push forward the legislative framework, so that there is less and less tolerance of drunk driving and we can drive the fatality rate and the huge injury rate down. They play an extremely important role.
I participated, along with my colleague from Surrey North, in the last MADD candlelight tribute that was held to victims of drunk driving in Vancouver just last fall, and will be participating in the next candlelight tribute as well. They play an extremely important role and they deserve really the thanks of parliamentarians from all four corners of the House for the work that they do.
I would also like to mention the stand of the NDP in various provinces. In Nova Scotia, for example, a few weeks ago, the Nova Scotia NDP has been pressing for proposed changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, recommending strongly lowering the allowable blood alcohol concentration level from .08 to .05. Nova Scotia New Democrats as well as New Democrats across the country are active to ensure that we can reduce the carnage that is taking place on the highways and bridges of our country.
Tragically, in my area of Burnaby--New Westminster, we have seen many accidents related to alcohol. On some of the choke points in greater Vancouver, such as the Patella Bridge in New Westminster, many tragedies could be avoided if we took action.
It is for that reason that I am rising in support of the private member's bill in principle. I will come back in a moment to some of the concerns we may have, but there is absolutely no doubt and there is very conclusive evidence that lowering the allowable blood alcohol concentration has an impact on reducing accident rates, reducing fatalities and reducing injuries.
For example, it is important to note studies that have been done which show the legal impairment among fatally injured drivers. In a study from 1997-98, by country, when we look at Canada with the .08 that is currently permitted, we see that among a number of western industrialized countries we actually had the highest percentage of legally impaired drivers who were fatally injured.
In Canada, with its .08, over 30% of fatally injured drivers were legally impaired. In the United States, it was similar at about 30% or a little lower. In the United States, states range from .08% to 1% in terms of blood alcohol level. Finland, which has a .05 maximum level, actually has a lower rate, with just over 20% of the fatally injured drivers found to be legally impaired. In the United Kingdom, where it is .08, it is at roughly the same level, but other countries with .05, such as Japan, the Netherlands and Germany, for example, have much lower rates in regard to the percentage of legally impaired among fatally injured drivers.
Just to look at the studies that have been done in this regard, for example, in Belgium the BAC or blood alcohol concentration limit was reduced to .05 in 1994. At that time, there was a 10% decrease in traffic fatalities in 1995 and then a further 11% decrease in 1996. It is very clear: there were fewer victims, fewer tragedies, fewer deaths and fewer injuries as a result of that initiative taken in Belgium.
Sweden enacted a .05 BAC limit in the 1950s, saw a reduction and then furthered that reduction down to .02. That limit was introduced in 1990 and resulted in further traffic safety benefits. In fact, a 1997 study reported that in the six years after the enactment of the .02 limit there was a 9.7% reduction in fatal crashes, an 11% reduction in single vehicle crashes and a 7.5% reduction in all crashes.
The authors of that study noted that the clearest effects occurred in fatal and single vehicle crashes, the category of crashes in which alcohol is most likely to be involved. It is further supported by a study in the year 2000 which estimated that a .02 BAC limit resulted in an approximately 10% decrease in fatal crashes and a 12% decrease in serious personal injury crashes.
Finally, a 1997 Australian study that analyzed traffic data for periods ranging from 13 to 17 years, a much longer period, indicated that those states that reduced their BAC limit from .08 to .05 experienced positive results. For example, Queensland reduced its BAC limit to .05 and there was a 14% reduction in serious collisions and an 18% reduction in fatal collisions. Similarly, a .05 BAC restriction in New South Wales was estimated to have reduced serious collisions by 7%, fatal collisions by 8% and single vehicle nighttime collisions by 11%. Other studies have reported similar results with a .05 BAC limit in South Australia, in the Australian capital territory.
It is very clear. Study after study shows conclusively that lowering the BAC limit, lowering the legally allowable limit of blood alcohol concentration from .08 to .05, is going to reduce the number of injuries, reduce the number of fatalities and reduce the number of accidents that we have on our city roads. That means, perhaps more than most other measures that we can take as a Parliament, that we are going to see fewer Canadians killed as a result of taking this measure. Very simply, this is an initiative that we have to take.
We support the principle of this idea of reducing the blood alcohol concentration from .08% to .05%. This is a very important principle.
We have a few difficulties with the summary convictions and some of the penalties provided for in the bill, but we hope that in committee we will be able to make those adjustments.
There is no doubt that the principle of reducing the blood alcohol level is an important one. I certainly congratulate the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for bringing this forward. The NDP had produced this and we are glad to have the idea taken. We hope that Parliament will support this measure so we can reduce the carnage on our nation's highways, reduce the accident rate, reduce fatalities and see more Canadians living the healthy productive lives that we wish for everyone.