Mr. Speaker, I believe the debate we are having today is an important one because I do not think there is anyone in the country, certainly no one in the riding of Thornhill that I know, who would condone anyone driving when drunk. I do not think they would condone them driving an automobile. I do not think they would condone them driving any motorized vehicle.
When we drive we have an obligation to ensure that we have knowledge of the vehicle, are trained and our judgment is unimpaired. We know that these vehicles can kill.
I want to begin my remarks by congratulating the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, as its members are referred to, for the wonderful work they have done in raising public consciousness over the years on this important issue. I also want to congratulate all the members of the House in all parties who have stated very clearly that this is a non-partisan issue.
As we address this issue of driving while drunk, it is important to note that across the country it is not just the Criminal Code which is responsible for the deterrence and the punishment for those who drive while drunk. Every province has a responsibility. The provinces have the responsibility for enforcement of the Criminal Code. The provinces also have responsibility for the highways within their jurisdictions.
As a member of the Ontario legislature for 12 years I am aware of the progress that the province of Ontario has made. I am also very aware on a personal level of the tragedies that have occurred.
I sat in the legislature on the day that it was announced that the tragic loss of the son of the now Treasurer of Ontario was as a result of an alcohol related accident. While I may have had my differences with the hon. member, I want the House to know, that I and every member of that legislature felt and empathized not only with the tragic loss but with the senselessnes and its preventability.
More recently we were aware of the news that the son of a cabinet minister in Ontario had been charged with driving while impaired. The thought that went through my mind was when will we ever learn.
I come to this House not only as a parliamentarian with significant experience in the legislature in the province of Ontario after serving on municipal council for six and a half years, and I am a mother of four children. The youngest is now 25. I remember how I felt when each of them got a driver's licence. I remember discussing with each and every one of them the responsibility they had when they got behind the wheel of a car. I remember discussing with them the responsibility they had when they saw a friend of theirs who should not be getting behind the wheel of a car.
I remember discussing with them the support they would receive from their family and from their friends, but particularly from my husband and I, if they took a taxi home and left the car if they had had a drink.
For those who say that these tragedies can be prevented and we should be doing something about it, I agree. I think that the deterrents in the Criminal Code and the penalties and the enforcement of the Criminal Code are only one part of the solution.
Certainly education and treatment for those with alcohol problems are all part. The raising of consciousness of this issue over the last many years has resulted in significant progress being made. Certainly progress is being made in public consciousness and awareness.
I was very disappointed when the courts struck down the Ontario law brought in by a Conservative government that said that if you failed or you refused to take a breathalyser test that you would have your licence revoked for 90 days. I thought it was a good law and a good deterrent. I am pleased that the government is appealing that decision. It is my hope that law will be found to be constitutional.
We have to find ways to keep the public informed of the importance that legislators, parliamentarians and the public who are interested in public safety, hold this important issue.
I also want to say how very proud I am of the responsiveness of the Liberal government. There has been a firm and clear commitment from the Minister of Justice to raise this issue with her counterparts, the attorneys general. We know that the solicitors general are also very interested in the whole issue of drunk driving. I am proud to be part of a government with ministers who have made that commitment.
The importance of that commitment speaks to the nature of this country. It is not just an issue for the federal Criminal Code. It is an issue that requires a national strategy, a national interest and certainly discussions and action by all of the provinces across Canada.
In the short time that I have been here, I have learned the importance of working with the provinces and getting the support of the provinces for federal initiatives. I also believe this is in the national interest since this is a federation, but I also believe it is in the interest of the issue.
I want to go on record today as saying that I do not believe that a consensus is unanimity. We do not require unanimity in order to take action. I believe we can move the yardstick further if we can achieve a consensus among the provincial partners that have responsibility enforcement of the Criminal Code. We know that enforcement takes resources. If they do not dedicate the resources we do not get the kind of enforcement that we need. Therefore, it is a partnership.
We also know the public policy which is in the provincial jurisdiction. I only mentioned Ontario but I know other provinces have also taken initiatives. We know how important it is for the provinces to be able to share that information and for us to be able to target our resources at what is going to be the most effective way of achieving our goal which is the reduction of impaired driving incidents, accidents and loss of life.
If that is the goal we all share then it is important to make sure that we have the research, the data, the information which will allow us to frame our policies in the most effective way.
It is important to note that the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, TIRF as it is called, is a facility database for Transport Canada. That data is very important if we are going to not only evaluate our programs but also to see the progress that we are making in achieving our goal. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation collects data from across this country and that data is very important.
Similarly, and I speak again from my perspective of Ontario, we know the work of the Addiction Research Foundation. It is a world leader in policy development, research, prevention strategies and, yes, treatment. That is an important part of this issue as well.
It is important that a matter such as this brings all of those together. The most appropriate lead is with the Minister of Justice. She has expressed interest and made a commitment in the House and to MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
I also believe there is a role for the parliamentary committee on justice to play. Standing committees can help frame policies which will impact and help to achieve our goal of a safer society. I hope we will have an opportunity over the coming years to discuss these kinds of issues in a non-partisan way.
One thing I have learned is that while we may all agree on the objectives and the goal, because of our philosophical or ideological differences, our approach to resolving these issues and achieving the goals often differ. During the debates it is important for everyone to remember that we share the same goal, that of a safer society, of preventing accidents caused by impaired drivers. We must be responsive to those who say this is a complex issue.
I recently said to someone that we do not have to say that an issue is controversial. If it is not controversial, it is not an issue. If the solutions were simple, we would not be debating them here, they would have been resolved. The reason we are having this debate is because the issue is controversial and the solutions are not simple and the public policy implications are complex.
I specifically mentioned the legislation in Ontario that was struck down by the courts. It was well-intentioned legislation. The provincial government was warned that when it was brought in that there would be court challenges. The court challenge was successful and the legislation was struck down.
I believe that as legislators we must not grandstand on these issues. We must not say that the solutions are simple. These issues are so important to the kind of society we build that they must be addressed often in this kind of forum. We must look for a solution, listen to the experts, collect the data from across the country, look internationally to see what others are doing, look at what works and what does not.
No one wants to see tax increases and everyone wants value for their tax dollars. We must target our resources to those things that will work cost effectively.
In the debate today I want my message to be very clear. On behalf of the people of Thornhill who I have the privilege of representing in the House, I believe they would like to see a comprehensive strategy, one that includes enhanced education, prevention, treatment options and strengthening of the Criminal Code in a way that will achieve the goal of reducing drunk driving in all motorized vehicles.
I appreciate the opportunity of speaking in a non-partisan way for my constituents in the riding of Thornhill on an issue of importance to all of us. I believe this is an issue that every member in the House and every person in the country cares deeply about. There have been too many needless tragedies. I wish the solutions were simple. But I know that every member of the House, each in our own way, will further the cause by participating in today's debate.