Making Our Roads Safer

Bill C-376 Impaired Driving

It was an honour to rise in the House of Commons on February 6th to debate the first hour of my Private Members Bill C-376. Bill C-376 will create a new .05% Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC offence. It is in addition to the current.08% BAC which already exists in the Criminal Code.

This is the first Private Member’s Bill I have tabled since I was elected in 2006 on behalf of the constituents of Kelowna-Lake Country and is an issue that has concerned me since my days as city councilor, now as a Member of Parliament and, not least, as a father of three daughters, two who are still teenagers, and thus part of a demographic that is particularly vulnerable to the tragic results of drinking and driving.

Why introduce .05% into the Criminal Code? The short answer is that it will save lives.

What many people do not know is impaired driving remains the #1 cause of criminal death in Canada - more than all other causes of homicide combined. In part this is because the current .08% BAC is not an accurate reflection of the true risks associated with drinking and driving.

When Parliamentarians set the .08% BAC in 1970 they did so based on findings that we now know considerably underestimated the risks of fatal crashes associated with impaired driving. What we know today is driving-related skills are significantly impaired at levels well below .08%.

Not only does research show that a majority of the driving population is impaired in some important measures at BACs as low as .02%, it also has established that occasional drinkers have a higher risk of fatal crash than regular drinkers at the same BAC.

Virtually all of the leading medical, accident prevention and traffic safety organizations around the world support a BAC driving limit at or below .05% including the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization. As a result, many countries have set their BAC at .05% or lower including Germany, France, Australia and Sweden.

I’m not the first to try to pass legislation which will bring Canada in line with our international counterparts. Several MPs have tried to do the same including Richard Harris, MP, Mark Warawa, MP Senator Marjory LeBreton, and the late Chuck Cadman. So why, you might ask, hasn’t it happened?

I think it’s because many Canadians do not realize just what a .08% BAC means. In fact already some of you have written to me with concerns that a .05% BAC would only succeed in stopping people from going out to dinner and enjoying a drink with a meal and would fail to curb heavy drinkers whom many believe cause the majority of accidents.

Lowering the BAC does not impede one from enjoying a drink with dinner. In fact few people understand the amount one can drink and still come under the .08% limit.

At the current level of .08 the average male can drink 6 bottles of beer on an empty stomach over a 2 hour period and get behind the wheel of a car.

In contrast, lowering the BAC to .05% requires that he cut those drinks back to 4 which I think we can all agree has no impact on the enjoyment of going out for dinner and enjoying a drink.

Secondly the assertion that the drunks causing accidents are the ones that exceed the current.08% is not accurate either.

As a deterrent effect, lowering the BAC limit reduces impaired driving at all BAC levels and in countries like Germany and Sweden where levels have been legislated at .05 and .02 respectively, the sharpest declines were seen amongst those drinkers and drivers at the highest BAC levels.

In fact, countries that have instituted a .05 or lower BAC have seen significant reductions in the number of deaths due to impaired driving and have witnessed a deterrent effect on all of those who drink and drive.

And that is in the end the whole point.

A .05% provision will save lives and reduce the risk of injury and death due to impaired driving. By tabling Bill C-376 I hope to bring the law in line with the evidence and make our roads safer for my constituents and all Canadians.

Bill C-376 will have its second hour of debate in approximately 6 weeks.

More MP Report articles

About the Author

The Honourable Ron Cannan was first elected as Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country in January, 2006. He was subsequently elected in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. He is a member of the Conservative Caucus.

On September 13th, 2012 Ron was summoned to be a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and will provide advice to the Government as a member of the Priorities and Planning Sub-Committee on Government Administration.

Ron successfully uses his experience and knowledge as a long-time Kelowna City Councillor and regional government representative to be an effective and enthusiastic champion for his riding and his constituents.

His greatest satisfaction comes from helping local organizations and citizens obtain the support they require from Ottawa. 

He is also dedicated to doing what it takes to ensure that the growing and vibrant communities in his riding continue to thrive and prosper.

He is proud of the partnership and cooperation between federal, provincial and municipal governments which have resulted in significant infrastructure projects including upgrades to Highway 97, expansion of the Kelowna International Airport, a new horticulture strategy for fruit growers, obtaining a full service passport office for Kelowna and addressing critical economic issues such as labour skills shortages.

He works closely with the local Chambers of Commerce and once a year arranges meetings for the Chamber with Cabinet Ministers and senior policy staff in Ottawa to move forward important local issues such as crime prevention and labour skills shortages.

He is also an ardent champion for important community initiatives including homelessness, mental health, women’s resources, and support of arts and culture.

On Parliament Hill, Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade since 2006 supporting initiatives which will broaden the economic opportunities for local businesses and businesses Canada-wide.

In previous parliamentary sessions Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee for Government Operations and Estimates, Veteran’s Affairs, Human Resources and Social Development, the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee, and the Standing Committee for Fisheries and Oceans.

Ron is also involved in a variety of inter-parliamentary organizations: he is Vice Chair of the Canada-US Inter-Parliamentary Group, and a member of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship group.

As Chair of the Conservative Wine Caucus, Ron works with his colleagues across the country to promote the wine regions of Canada.  Ron tabled Motion 218(formerly Motion 601) which supports direct to consumer purchasing of Canadian wine. His motion became Bill C-311, sponsored by MP Dan Albas, seconded by Ron, which was passed into law on June 28th, 2012.

Prior to entering politics, Ron developed a diverse business background as a small business owner and had several years experience in marketing and sales management working with corporations including Coca-Cola, Costco and Corus Entertainment.

Very active in his community, Ron has been a Director for both the Central Okanagan Regional District and the Central Okanagan Hospital Board. Ron also served on the Okanagan University College Access to Training Advisory Board, the Glenmore Elementary School Parents Advisory Council, and the Kelowna Christian School Fund Raising Committee. He was co-founder of the Okanagan Volunteer Festival. Currently Ron is a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Kelowna and, along with his wife Cindy, was the honorary Chair of the 2012 Canadian Cancer Society Daffodil Ball.

Ron lives a family-oriented and active lifestyle with his wife Cindy. He is the proud father of three daughters and grandfather to three grandsons. His hobbies include music and sports.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories