Min­is­ter eyes lower blood/al­co­hol level

Fed­eral jus­tice min­is­ter says change would make it eas­ier to fight dan­ger of drunk driv­ing

North Bay Nugget - - NATIONAL NEWS - Melanie Mar­Quis and giuseppe Valiante

ot­taWa — the clas­sic ro­man­tic date is in dan­ger of dis­ap­pear­ing if the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­duces the le­gal al­co­hol limit for li­censed driv­ers, a spokesman for Que­bec’s restau­rant lobby said tues­day.

Fran­cois Me­u­nier said if ot­tawa passes such a law, it would be a dis­as­ter for the restau­rant in­dus­try — and for lovers.

“the (change would) mean a woman can have one drink and a man, in most cases, two,” Me­u­nier said. “For­get about a bot­tle of wine for two, for a Valen­tine’s day din­ner — that’s over.”

In a let­ter to provin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial jus­tice min­is­ters dated last May, fed­eral Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-ray­bould sug­gested low­er­ing the limit to 50 mil­ligrams of al­co­hol per 100 millil­itres of blood from the cur­rent 80 mil­ligrams.

the fed­eral min­is­ter said the change would “make it eas­ier to fight the dan­ger posed by driv­ers who have con­sumed al­co­hol.”

Me­u­nier, who works for an as­so­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents restau­ra­teurs in Que­bec, said his mem­bers are less wor­ried about los­ing al­co­hol sales and more con­cerned with see­ing a sig­nif­i­cant drop in to­tal rev­enues, as peo­ple choose to stay home.

“It’s about food sales that go with the al­co­hol,” he said.

“When it comes to cel­e­bra­tions, par­ties, all that will be done at home as peo­ple change their be­hav­iour. It’s easy to talk about tak­ing a taxi or pub­lic trans­porta­tion, but in the (out­ly­ing) re­gions it’s not as easy.”

Wil­son-ray­bould re­sponded to the re­ac­tion to her let­ter through a spokesper­son on tues­day.

“I be­lieve that low­er­ing the fed­eral limit to 50mg would bet­ter re­spond to the dan­ger posed by im­paired driv­ers, by send­ing a strong mes­sage through the crim­i­nal law and chang­ing driv­ers’ be­hav­iour,” Wil­son-ray­bould said.

“I have there­fore sought the in­put of my provin­cial coun­ter­parts, in or­der to so­licit their views. at this stage, no de­ci­sion has been made.”

Wil­son-ray­bould says the cur­rent rules were es­tab­lished af­ter re­search in­di­cated the risk of be­ing in­volved in a car crash was twice as likely when a driver has 80 mil­ligrams of al­co­hol per 100 millil­itres of blood in his or her sys­tem.

“More re­cent re­search in­di­cates that this data un­der­es­ti­mated the fa­tal crash risk,” she said tues­day. “In fact, the risk is al­most dou­ble at 50mg, al­most triple at 80mg, and rises ex­po­nen­tially above that level.”

In her let­ter to her provin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial coun­ter­parts, Wilson­ray­bould cited Ire­land as a case study in the dis­sua­sive ef­fect a re­duc­tion in blood/al­co­hol limit lev­els can have.

“the re­duc­tion to 50 mil­ligrams of al­co­hol (per 100 millil­itres of blood), com­bined with oblig­a­tory test­ing for al­co­hol, pro­duced a 50 per cent re­duc­tion in deadly road ac­ci­dents,” she wrote, “and a re­duc­tion of about 65 per cent in the num­ber of (crim­i­nal) charges.”

Que­bec is the only ju­ris­dic­tion in Canada that has no sanc­tions in place for driv­ers who reg­is­ter a blood/al­co­hol level of more than 50 mil­ligrams. the prov­ince tried twice to im­pose penal­ties for such driv­ers, but failed.

Last spring, at the same time the fed­eral gov­ern­ment tabled leg­is­la­tion to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana, it also in­tro­duced a bill in­creas­ing penal­ties for driv­ers caught un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs or al­co­hol.

Bill C-46 al­lows po­lice to de­mand driv­ers sub­mit to a breath­a­lyzer even if they don’t sus­pect they are un­der the in­flu­ence.

Peter ser­gakis, the head of an as­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sent­ing bar own­ers, said the gov­ern­ment should fo­cus on stop­ping re­peat drunk driv­ers, not pe­nal­iz­ing re­spon­si­ble adults.

“Po­lice are only ap­ply­ing the cur­rent laws dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son,” he said.

ser­gakis said Prime Min­is­ter Justin trudeau is not be­ing con­sis­tent in his ap­proach.

“trudeau wants to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana — he wants to get ev­ery­one high,” said the bar owner. “It’s a dou­ble stan­dard. he wants to get ev­ery­one high but pre­vent them from drink­ing. Where is the logic?”

Caa-Que­bec called ot­tawa’s pro­posal “com­mend­able,” but said it would be bad tim­ing to in­tro­duce such a mea­sure while prov­inces are pre­par­ing for the mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion bill to be­come law in 2018.

“With the re­duc­tion of the al­co­hol limit to 50 mil­ligrams, we think it’ll be too dif­fi­cult for gov­ern­ments to han­dle and it’s a pill too big for driv­ers to swal­low,” said Caa-Que­bec spokesman Marco har­ri­son.

theresa-anne Kramer, a spokes­woman for the Mon­treal branch of Moth­ers against drunk driv­ing, said her or­ga­ni­za­tion has been lob­by­ing since 2001 for a re­duc­tion in the le­gal al­co­hol limit.

“In ger­many, they haven’t stopped their beer fes­ti­vals,” she said.

“and in Ire­land, I never heard that they had to close a pub — and both those coun­tries have the 50 mil­ligram limit.”

Adrian Wyld/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS fILES

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould speaks to mem­bers of the me­dia on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa. Wilson­Ray­bould is con­sid­er­ing low­er­ing the le­gal al­co­hol limit for li­censed driv­ers.

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