Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, colleagues, for being here this afternoon to talk about something that's very serious. It's dear to my heart but also dear to many Canadians across Canada. It is about the ability to get drunk drivers off the road and to actually put in place better legislation to do that.
As for what Bill C-590 does, it is an act to amend section 255 of the Criminal Code to establish more severe penalties for offenders who have a blood alcohol content of twice the legal limit. In this bill, we're not going after those who have had one glass of wine or are maybe in and out of the 0.05 or 0.08, depending on what province you're in. This is actually going after people who are two sheets to the wind: they are seriously drunk and they're getting into a motor vehicle and doing great harm when they do that.
As I said when we first discussed this in the House, I am very open to ideas on, suggestions for, and amendments to this bill. This is not just my bill. In a lot of ways, this is your bill. I look forward to the committee making this bill a stronger bill by doing just that, so that the result is something we can take pride in and have some confidence in, knowing that we've made the roads, streets, and waterways in Canada safer.
What we'd be doing is that offenders who are at twice the legal limit would be “liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years”. Penalties for the first-offence conviction will now result in a minimum fine of $2,000 and a minimum 60-day prison term. In the case of a second or subsequent offence, the minimum term of imprisonment will be 240 days. Those with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit who harm or kill someone will be additionally penalized with a minimum fine of $5,000, a minimum of 120 days in prison for a first offence, and a minimum of a 12-month term of imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence.
To share some stats, according to Statistics Canada, almost half of fatally injured drivers had a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit. This level of impairment has had a devastating impact on our youth, as they make up 31% of alcohol-related deaths. I don't think there is one person in this room who can't relate to that statistic. When I went to high school, we heard of different schools throughout the district that saw youth killed before their prime because they were drinking and driving.
The June 2009 report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on alcohol use among fatally injured drivers indicates that the bulk of impaired driving problems lies with those drivers having a blood alcohol content over the current Criminal Code BAC of 0.08. That's a startling fact, when you think about it. This isn't about somebody who maybe had one little drink too many and is over 0.08. We're seeing very severe consequences when they get over that 0.08 or 0.05 factor, depending on where you are.
Among the tested drivers in Canada, 62.9% showed no evidence of alcohol, and that's a good sign; 37.1% had been drinking, and that's a bad sign; 4.3% had a blood alcohol content below 0.05; 2.6% had a blood alcohol content from 0.05 to 0.08; 9.4% had a blood alcohol content of 0.081 to 0.160; and 20.8% had a blood alcohol content over 0.160.
In other words, 81.5% of the fatally injured drinking drivers had a blood alcohol content over the current limit of 0.08 up to 0.16. High blood alcohol content drivers, such as those with a blood alcohol content over 160 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, are drunk. There's no question that they're behind a wheel and there's no question that they should not be behind the wheel. Your friends will recognize that at this level of alcohol.... These are the people who are doing the most harm on our roads. Of course, this represents a disproportionate number of fatally injured drinking drivers.
Drivers with a high blood alcohol content represent about 1% of the cars on the road at night and on weekends, yet they account for nearly half of all drivers killed at those times. That's 1%, but half the deaths. Limited resources would seem to be best deployed to target the 81.5% of the fatally injured drinking drivers who are already above the 0.08 threshold. The worst offenders are already driving with a blood alcohol content two or three times the current limit. Drivers with the highest blood alcohol content constitute the most significant danger on the roads or waterways, and they should still be a priority.
Section 255.1 of the Criminal Code states that if an impaired driving offence is committed by someone whose blood alcohol content exceeds 0.16 at the time the offence was committed, it will be an aggravating factor upon sentencing. This reflects the fact that driving with a high level of impairment—over 0.16, or double the current legal limit—is generally indicative of a serious problem.
Even if a driver with this level of impairment is being detected for the first time, it is likely that this is a hard-core impaired driver. In other words, the only thing we don't know is how many times he's been drinking and driving before they caught him. Of course, this is due to the fact that rarely is that time the first time he has driven while under the influence of alcohol.
In Saskatchewan we've experienced an increase in police-reported impaired driving incidents in each consecutive year from 2006 to 2011, according to Stats Canada. Furthermore, in 2011, Saskatchewan had the highest number of such police-reported impaired driving incidents, at almost 700 per 100,000 people, among all of the provinces. In other words, over the course of five years, the number of police-reported incidents has increased from around 500 incidents to 700 per 100,000 people.
Bill C-590 targets drivers with a high blood alcohol content by increasing specific penalties for such drivers. The goal is to prevent these drivers from reoffending, since high-risk offenders cause the greater number of collisions, with higher fatality rates, and are more likely to be repeat offenders.
On a personal note, this became an interest to me because right next to my office in Prince Albert was a guy by the name of Ben Darchuk. He ran Ben's Auto Glass and employed roughly 10 to 20 people in his business. Ben had just bought a new boat, and on May 20, 2012, he was going to head up to Christopher Lake for the long weekend. His family had already gone up to secure a camping site. He hooked up to his boat and was heading up to the lake to meet with his family. He didn't get there. He was hit by a 22-year-old who was over 0.08 and who was also on cocaine. Ben was killed instantly. Ben is survived by his wife Leanne and two daughters and a son. He never got a chance to use that new boat.
You can look at that impact on Prince Albert and at impacts around the country, where everybody has an example like that. I can call on another example of a lady in Prince Albert who was pregnant and was killed by a drunk driver. She was 17 years old. They managed to save the baby.
There are too many examples of this type of scenario happening on our streets and on our roads. I don't want to say just “our roads”, because it's also our waterways. I want to stress that. A boat is a motor vehicle. This is not just about cars. A lot of people think they can have one or two beer, or five or ten, and go on a boat or a Jet Ski and think they're safe. They aren't.
What we're trying to do here is very simple, and I look forward to amendments to make this bill even better. The goal is to get these people off the road. We need to do that. We have to make sure that they don't do harm and get the proper counselling and treatment so they don't reoffend.
Mr. Chair, I'll end it there. I'll entertain questions.