Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2016-05-03 17:51 [p.2804]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise to speak to Bill C-247.
At the outset, let me congratulate the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for his impassioned speech. While I will not be able to support the bill for reasons that I will explain momentarily, I do want to acknowledge that this legislation is well-intentioned and that the objectives of the hon. member are noble.
Impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal death in Canada. In 2016, that is simply unacceptable. However, that being said, it is important to acknowledge that over the last several decades, Canada has come a long way to combatting impaired driving. Indeed, over the last two decades, the percentage of motor vehicle deaths involving impaired drivers has decreased. In some year-to-year comparisons, there have perhaps been increases, but the trend line is clear and they are going down. While that is not a reason to celebrate, it is evidence that the combination of public awareness, policing efforts, and legislative changes over the last several decades are having a positive effect.
Nonetheless, there continues to be people who drink, drive, and cause carnage on our roads. These are people like Johnathan Pratt. He was someone who, in 2011, killed three young men outside of Beaumont, Alberta. Pratt was more than three times over the legal limit, driving 199 kilometres an hour down a highway when he rammed into a vehicle occupied by the young men, effectively crushing them to death.
Then there is Roger Walsh, someone who killed a wheelchair-bound woman while he was impaired and behind the wheel. This was Walsh's nineteenth conviction for impaired driving.
The vast majority of Canadians understand that impaired driving is dangerous, that it is illegal, and most importantly that it is wrong. The vast majority of Canadians not only understand those facts, but are heeding the message and choosing not to get behind the wheel while impaired.
However, there are some who continue to do so. There is no one profile of an impaired driver. There are many instances of people who rarely drive impaired, or perhaps someone decides to do so one fateful night and in turn causes injury or death on the road. However, a big part of the problem in terms of those who are causing carnage on our roads is that they are regular, repeat, hard-core drunk drivers.
The question that we must ask as parliamentarians is, how do we deal with a relatively small number of people who are causing a disproportionate amount of grief, death, and injury on our roads? The answer is that we need to ensure that those types of offenders are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, some of the laws on the books today are simply not doing the job to the degree that they ought to.
That is why I was very pleased to see that my colleague, the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-226. Bill C-226 contains some important measures to hold serious impaired driving offenders accountable. It would impose a mandatory minimum for an impaired driver who causes death. It would increase sentencing for impaired drivers who cause bodily harm from 10 years to 14 years. It would also allow for consecutive sentencing for impaired drivers who cause multiple deaths to ensure that every victim of impaired driving is accounted for.
When it comes to holding regular, repeat, and hard-core drunk drivers accountable, unfortunately, unlike Bill C-226, I believe that Bill C-247 falls short. While Bill C-247 falls short in this regard, it would impose a form of random breath testing, passive alcohol sensors. Certainly I would acknowledge that Bill C-226 does not contain passive sensors, but I have some reservations about any form of random breath testing.
Under sections 8 and 9 of the charter, it would most certainly run afoul. It is quite arguable that it could be saved under section 1 of the charter, and I believe there would be a reasonable chance that it would be saved. However, the issue is what impact it will have in reducing the number of impaired drivers and deaths on our roads. The evidence is mixed on that question.
Indeed, there is some body of statistical evidence that indicates this type of testing has no more impact in reducing impaired driving than things that are currently employed by law enforcement, such as checkstops. Indeed, in the city of Edmonton in the last few years, one thing that had the biggest impact in reducing impaired driving was the city posting signs saying that if people see impaired drivers, they should phone 911. Therefore, I think we have to perhaps look at other alternatives to random breath testing. What is more, I believe this legislation just does not cut it when it comes to holding the most serious offenders accountable for impaired driving.
It is on that basis that I regretfully will not support this particular bill. However, I want to commend the hon. member for bringing it forward, because it is an important debate and an important issue that Parliament must continue to address.
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