Windsor Star

B.C. and .05

Listening to the public

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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.

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