B.C. and .05
Listening to the public
Two months ago, British Columbia began enforcing the same kind of stringent drinking and driving laws that were instituted in Ontario about 18 months ago. Essentially, any driver who registers between .05 and .08 on a breathalyzer faces a fine and licence suspension. In addition, your insurance company can get the information.
However, while the impact of the law is similar in both provinces, there is one big difference – British Columbia has responded to criticism about the legislation and decided to launch a review. In Ontario that hasn’t happened.
B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman said last week that it’s too soon to say whether he’ll change the law, but he has acknowledged that there have been “unintended” negative consequences, particularly for the bar and restaurant sector.
“I do know there’s concerns,” said Coleman. “I’m going to look at those concerns.”
According to the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Assocation, business at bars and restaurants has gone down as much as 30 per cent since the .05 law went into effect on Sept. 20. Association president Ian Tostenson says it amounts to “devastation” for the hospitality industry.
“I think the minister is making a whole lot of common sense and it’s refreshing to see him taking a sober second look at this,” said Tostenson. “I think it’s great.”
Ontarians deserve the same consideration from the McGuinty government.
It seems quite clear that the .05 law has had a serious impact on the bar and restaurant business in this province. People are simply not willing to take the risk of being targeted by a government that has decided that even responsible drinkers should be punished if they decide to drive. The government has essentially given police officers sweeping powers to convict them on the spot.
The bottom line is that even though the legal blood alcohol limit is .08, by registering .05 you’ll be treated as if you’ve committed a crime — although you are not legally impaired and quite capable of driving safely.
As a result, many people are worried about having one or two drinks, getting a black mark on their driving record and then watching their insurance go through the roof.
Are there greater numbers of high-risk, drunk drivers being kept off the road by the .05 law? We’re not convinced that’s the case. Repeat drunk drivers are unlikely to change their habits because of the .05 limit. And there’s no question those individuals deserve to face serious penalties, including lengthy licence suspensions, hefty fines and even prison time.
However, at least in British Columbia, the government has acknowledged that there are serious issues with the .05 law, and it is now willing to take another look at the impact of the legislation on both individuals and businesses.
Ontario should be doing the same thing. The law is little more than a serious overreaction from a government that has been bent on over-regulation. The government has been unfairly targeting responsible drinkers and diverting resources away from focusing on hard-core drinking drivers.
It’s time for the McGuinty government to take a cue from British Columbia and start listening.