Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:|
|No. 1, Motor Vehicle Act, Hon. W. Estabrooks||1302|
|Mr. A. Younger||1302|
|Hon. K. Casey||1302|
|Hon. C. Clarke||1303|
|Hon. K. Colwell||1307|
|Mr. H. Theriault||1310|
|Hon. W. Estabrooks||1310|
|Vote - Affirmative||1311|
|No. 2, Motor Vehicle Act, Hon. W. Estabrooks||1311|
|Hon. W. Estabrooks||1311|
|Hon. W. Gaudet||1313|
|Hon. M. Scott||1316|
|Hon. S. McNeil||1326|
|Mr. C. Porter||1328|
|Hon. K. Colwell||1333|
|Hon. C. d'Entremont||1340|
|Mr. A. Younger||1345|
|ADJOURNMENT, The House rose to meet again on Mon., Oct. 19th at 2:00 p.m.||1349|
|NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):|
|Res. 644, Spa Springs Women's Instit. - Anniv. (35th),|
|Hon. S. McNeil||1350|
HALIFAX, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2009
Sixty-first General Assembly
Hon. Charlie Parker
Mr. Gordon Gosse, Hon. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Alfie MacLeod
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 1.
Bill No. 1 - Motor Vehicle Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.
MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, the House will be happy to know that I completed my remarks at the end and moved adjournment, so I will pass that on to the next honourable member who wishes to speak.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.
HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, as an educator, and knowing that we have students on our highways all day every day in our school buses and we try to ensure that we will have those students delivered safely to our schools, I would certainly be in support of any changes that might guarantee or improve the safety that we are able to provide. We live in a rural province. We have very few schools that do not have buses travelling to those schools, and in our classrooms we certainly are very cognizant of teaching our students themselves about safety, but we have to make sure that we model that and that we are able to try to convince them as young people that acknowledging safety and respecting the acts of the motor vehicle and also the highways, respect for those safety issues and safety concerns are instilled in our students at a very early age.
I think the school has proven over the number of years that it is the best learning ground. We have taken many new initiatives into our schools, and in many cases it has been our students who have taught their parents what that particular respect might be or what that change might be for them.
We have introduced a lot of programs through healthy living, through drinking and driving, through smoking cessation and those kinds of issues, and we found that when we can make sure that our young people understand and appreciate and respect those particular laws or that particular change of behavior, we have found that has been successful in changing attitudes of their parents. We can use some examples, of course, that we all know,
many of us were taught by our children how to reuse and recycle. So that allowed us to use that classroom environment as a great training ground and as a great teaching ground.
We have to respect the laws of the land. We have to respect those people who are at dangerous scenes trying to provide care and whether that is the law enforcement officers or the paramedics, whether that is somebody who has stopped on the side of the road because they are a doctor or a nurse and they can provide some assistance, we have to make sure that we try to protect and guarantee their safety while they are administering help to aid someone else. I'm sure some of you may remember, some of you from Colchester County, perhaps, a situation where we had a highway worker who was working on a highway, doing his job diligently, and a driver who failed to obey the signs that were posted struck the man and he was killed. So every time I drive through a construction scene or an emergency scene and I see the signs that caution you to slow down, I do pay attention to those and I think it has to sometimes be a personal experience that drives that home to your attention.
If we have firefighters who are there doing their work or paramedics or police officers or, as I said, a good citizen who has stopped to try to provide some aid or some assistance, I think that we owe it to them to make sure that we have done everything we can to protect them. If that requires more scrutiny, harsher penalties, more fines, whatever the consequences might be, if the punishment doesn't hurt, very often there is no lesson learned. So I think we have to make sure that Bill No. 1 is supported and that we do take the opportunity to do whatever we can in this Legislature to provide that protection. So I want to say that as the MLA for Colchester North, and as the Leader here for our Party, this is a bill that we would support.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North.
HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise for a few moments in the debate as Bill No. 1 comes to a close. I do want to echo the comments that have been made in this Chamber about our colleague who brought forward the impetus for this bill and recognized it as a front-line service provider working with colleagues and other professionals in this province and making sure that our firefighters, our paramedics, public safety officials are protected.
I can say to the honourable member that the relevance of this bill, I know it was last Saturday when I was travelling back to Cape Breton, going through Antigonish and just before Heatherton, there were emergency vehicles off to the left-hand side of the road, there were EHS, fire department, emergency personnel, all the lights flashing at the lower part of that hill. So very clearly there was an emergency scene and situation underway and as you passed by, mindfully, you have to slow down.
At the same time that I was doing that, Mr. Speaker, he was coming into the passing lane and then vehicles - this one happened to have an out-of-province licence plate, just whisked by at an excessive speed and had no regard whatsoever for the emergency situation that was at hand in that community.
More importantly, as we also know, especially on our highways and secondary roads, sometimes the geography is limiting and people are not as mindful. But when there's clearly an incident that's being responded to and a situation that people clearly know, we respect that.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, especially in rural areas, I know in major centres with congested traffic, there's issues of emergency vehicles getting around. But a lot of us from rural areas know and have grown up with the courtesy - no matter what the vehicle is, you pull to the side of the road, and you've seen that and people have understood that. But, over the course of time, people have forgotten the importance of the task at hand of an emergency vehicle and the personnel and what they're attending to.
We had a discussion as well, when we look at some of the challenges that are roadside with regard to emergency service providers, I know in a discussion in estimates with the Attorney General, one of the discussions we've had for volunteer fire departments as well, is the length of time they spend at a scene, especially when there is an unfortunate death or fatality that has to wait for the proper removal process to come and attend. The pressure on those oft-times volunteers who have to attend to that scene after the police report is done, potentially for hours on end, dealing with community and family and/or media and securing those scenes. It means they have a lot of effort with then volumes of traffic they have to secure and they're doing this as volunteers and continually putting their own safety at risk.
That is an issue I know that the Chief Medical Examiner and public safety officials are trying to work on to help those who are emergency providers. To ensure there is a more effective way of helping those who are truly trying to help others and provide a service and do it most of the times as volunteers. That is something we've heard from one end of the province to the other and it poses a risk for the length of time, when hours upon hours are waiting for a removal service from the medical examiner, how they can make sure that there may be a regional response.
I know the Chief Medical Examiner, I know that the Minister of Justice, as Attorney General, is working with those partners to make sure we can address that concern for our volunteer fire departments, ensure that they have the tools necessary to better serve their community.
The other thing, Mr. Speaker, with any bill like this we have to look at what does this bill do? Part of it is the enforcement and the education piece that comes with this. That is something we have to look at. We've heard about the merits and every member who has spoken on this bill has spoken, I think effectively, on their own perspective. But we also have
to look at the enforcement aspect and public education, because a law that is not known or a law that is not enforced loses the sincere intent of what the member has brought forward to this House with regard to the safety of firefighters.
When we look at educating Nova Scotians, there's going to be a role for the Department of Justice and there's going to be a role for the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal with his officials. There is going to be a role as well, Mr. Speaker, ensuring that the 250 police officer program - the Boots to the Streets - for Nova Scotia continues to roll out. That those officers are on the beat to help enforce the laws, help to recognize and support others who are providing emergency services, help volunteers do their job more effectively and, more importantly, safely.
As our Leader has indicated, in this province with so much rural traffic and people going to school, it affects people being aware and it is very much an all-inclusive and encompassing program for the education and enforcement.
The other thing on the enforcement side is making sure that truly that it is applied strictly and severely, so that people know that this is just not something that is meant to make people feel good. It's actually intended to make sure they are safe and know that the work they do as emergency providers and first responders is, indeed, respected and appropriately protected.
On the education piece I would think that the various ministries that have a role in public education, working as well with their municipal units, working everything from EMO to the Minister of Labour and Workforce Development in terms of the fire service of this province - that everyone has a role to play, and that they will join in the public education piece for this initiative. As well, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, with their officials who are on the highways, they have a role to play in reporting any abuse by individuals who are not respecting this law. They will be part of the Justice delivery system with regard to ensuring a notification is provided, ensuring that the public education piece is there, ensuring that the Department of Justice and the Public Safety Division is working with emergency service providers, first responders, and others who are doing their job to serve and protect others, and that they themselves are being served and protected by this bill and this law.
Mr. Speaker, as we go forward, I look forward to this going to the Law Amendments Committee. (Interruption) I know as well my honourable colleague has many points that he would like me to make here today, but I also know that getting this bill to the Law Amendments Committee is also going to provide the opportunity for first responders, and for the individuals who are directly affected and who need to be protected by this law to come forward and have their real life, personal situations - their individual service areas, whether it's fire, EHS, other providers - that can make sure that they have been effectively heard. Part of this is going to ensure that from those service providers, we want to hear from
them about what they believe is necessary for public education, how they can help with making sure the enforcement piece is done to ensure their safety is enhanced, and that the public respects and truly gets a greater appreciation.
One of the things that we are concerned about is that the public is at times taking for granted some of these key services and the value and the work that's provided by volunteers and other professionals who dedicate their lives to public safety in one form or another. By taking it for granted, by being in a rush to get to whatever life's next task is and the focus of the day - we've seen that driver distraction, Mr. Speaker, is a key factor. That's why we brought in the ban of cellphone use in the province. I heard the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal speak at some length about that in the House, and recognizing that people are there. He referred to the fact that people are going about their business, and we've all seen it, whether there was a cellphone, applying makeup, reading a book, reading a paper while driving - a newspaper on their steering wheel while they're driving - and driver distraction is a real issue.
People now are paying attention to their GPS - they're paying attention, they're talking, whether that's hands-free, there are so many modes or information streams coming to people in their own vehicle now that it is distracting from that. We see vehicles with DVD systems in them - all these types of devices that are modern amenities but also are a distraction. It's a real sad state, and we've heard cases in this House where people have talked about the fact that people have passed an emergency scene and had no idea it was an emergency scene because they were that distracted by the situation.
Mr. Speaker, I can say that it's incumbent upon all of us to talk about not just emergency service providers - wider public safety about driver distraction, because it is causing accidents in this province. It is causing a risk to public health and safety. It is a neglect of what is a privilege. The other thing, to talk about this and the enforcement piece - it is a privilege, not a right, to drive. People are abusing their privilege and their driving privileges by being disrespectful, especially in emergency situations where service providers are there to do a job that they have - that they feel the duty to do, and they take that call to service and duty, and they themselves have to have the respect of other people who are on the road. For drivers to be distracted or feel there's something more important than the safety of someone else who is in greater need than they are, of a greater importance than the situation they're in, is disrespectful, and indeed we have to make sure that we carry forward and act on this bill and ensure it has the full effect and the full weight of what it is intended to do.
With that, I do welcome the continuance of the process, and the Law Amendments Committee and seeing this bill brought back to the Chamber and brought to third reading and most importantly I would ask the respective ministers, as we come forward and deal with this, we're going to be looking to make sure and we hear from the ministers on how their departments and/or agencies will help in the enforcement and the education piece associated
with Bill No. 1 because we not only want to pass this law, we want it to have the full effect and force of the law, and strengthen it for the benefit of all Nova Scotians, but most importantly that our emergency first responders and their safety will be paramount and forefront.
The other issue this speaks to is the need for us with our policing, as the Minister of Justice continues to roll out the 250 police officer commitment to strengthen our policing community. I know the minister will get up and talk about the role of the Department of Justice when it gets over here for third reading and talk about the enforcement piece that is necessary; will talk about how he's working through his public safety division; talk about his roll with the Minister of Labour and Workforce Development and the fire service of Nova Scotia; talk with municipal and Service Nova Scotia with regard to working with municipal policing services and their communities; will talk with Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to make sure the department is playing its role, it has inspectors on the highways, they have people who can see first hand and work with EHS and the Department of Health and the public education piece. If all those come together, it will culminate into, I think, a very effective law and while it is a bill that some people say is obvious and is simple, it's a no-brainer, we need to do it. It isn't as simple as that because if it was so simple we wouldn't even have this bill here, if people were respectful and conscious about their driving habits.
Again, to remind Nova Scotians that driving is a privilege, not a right, and that with privilege comes responsibilities and obligations when they're on the roadways of this province and that has to be held and brought to a higher standard and, as I say, it is not one agency, it is not one department, many have to be part of the solution. With that, I'm very pleased to conclude my remarks and see this bill move to the next stage.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.
HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 1. I think this is a very positive step forward. So many times we go by and see emergency vehicles stopped and a lot of times people slow down to look and see what's going on can cause an accident. Often you see people go by, particularly on the hundred series highways where they're not double-lane, people go by usually at 100 kilometres an hour and sometimes even more. They're a real danger to the RCMP officer or the ambulance or fire department, whatever the situation may be, so I think it's very positive. Anything we can do to avoid an accident I think is very positive for all of us, all the pain and misery it causes people.
Also, it must be very difficult for the emergency people to live in a continuous fear, on the side of the road, when they're doing their job as they should be doing and fear they're going to be run over by somebody coming along who's maybe not quite paying enough attention and going too fast.
So I think this is a positive bill and it will hopefully, over time, make people in the emergency services feel more comfortable on the side of the road when they're doing their job because that is their workplace. As my colleague from Clare did, a number of years ago, put a Private Member's Bill in to double the fines in work areas. I think that was a very positive bill and every time I go through those, I remember my colleague and the passionate approach he had on that and, indeed, I'm sure that has helped people who work in those situations.
When you look at the consequences of somebody running over somebody, or running into somebody, or killing somebody, or at the least damaging their vehicle or another vehicle - and that's the least, and I stress that, because those things can easily be repaired - but indeed if you have some type of bodily injury or a death that's related to this type of incident, it's just simply not acceptable.
You see the emergency vehicles going today and oftentimes people don't even haul over for them when they're going to a scene. I witnessed that just last week when an ambulance was travelling on Highway No. 107 and had an awful time getting by some of the vehicles that wouldn't haul over to let them go by. Indeed, it did delay their progress as they were going through traffic, and there was no need of that. It was very simple for people to haul over, but indeed they didn't.
Another bill I think is a great idea is a bill that was passed here awhile ago that you have to have your daytime running lights on, but I still see brand-new vehicles with no daytime running lights on. The reason I say this, awhile ago I remember seeing an old half-ton truck that wouldn't have been equipped with daytime running lights. It was sort of a foggy morning and I spotted the gentleman as he came off an on-ramp onto Highway No. 107. The gentleman wasn't doing anything wrong, he was travelling along as he should have been, but he didn't have his headlights on. I watched in my mirror in horror as someone almost created a head-on collision because they simply couldn't see him coming. They absolutely couldn't see him coming. Hopefully everybody will abide by that law and the RCMP and regional police will start enforcing it a little more aggressively. It can save lives and do the things it's supposed to do.
As we move forward on this bill, I think it's one of those bills that will make the workplace safer for emergency responders and the people who work so hard to ensure that we are safe and doing their job in a way that makes it more comfortable. I can remember years ago when I was the Minister of Business and Consumer Services, I went in to see one of the driving inspectors that does driver's licences and he was white as a sheet; he was in the Antigonish area. I said to him, you're nervous because I'm the minister coming to visit you? He said no, I almost got killed again today. I said, how come you almost got killed? He said I have to go across the road here out on the highway with new drivers and I've just
gotten back from eight months in hospital because of an inexperienced driver - I told him not to go, he went anyway and a car hit us side-on and I almost got killed.
So I understand what this bill does mean. After that we did make some changes so the gentleman could go to work every day and not live in continuous fear of losing his life. I'm sure some of the emergency responders who work in this thing can tell you some pretty horrifying stories. I want to congratulate the government for bringing this forward and I think it's a positive bill. I think it's something that, as we move forward, we'll see some real benefits from it.
The only concern I do have with it, one of the concerns I do have, is how do you enforce it? If you have a police officer stopping somebody for some kind of a violation or whatever the case may be and someone goes tearing by at or above the speed limit, how are you going to stop them? Are you going to have a second police vehicle there to stop the speeders? Sometimes these roadside stops are pretty intense for the RCMP, especially in the rural areas and even in the cities with more and more prevalence of real serious violence we're seeing in our province, unfortunately.
So if they have to cope with a really bad traffic situation and a really potentially dangerous situation they're facing with the people they're dealing with, it's very difficult. On the other hand, they don't have time to enforce somebody going over the speed limit a bit. Hopefully the government will make some kind of provision to look after this and give the police forces some additional powers - not powers really, but some additional resources that they might be able to enforce some of these things.
So many people, you know, you've seen the cellphone bill passed here but I still see on a regular basis people driving with cellphones to their ears. You can tell them pretty quickly because they're usually all over the road. No phone call is that important that it can't wait until you either haul over or stop and see what's going on. Again, how do you enforce these things? The obvious things that the police, when they do have time to enforce them, for example, the cellphone situation or the daytime driving lights, it's difficult enough for them to enforce this with all the other work they have to do, so how are they ever going to enforce this, a speeding area, unless they set up a speed trap in addition to the vehicle that is actually doing the stopping of the individuals, or whatever the emergency situation could be? That would be quite an interesting set-up, I would think.
Hopefully the police will be able to enforce this; hopefully the government will come up with some kind of system to aid with the enforcement and, indeed, make the workplace safer for the emergency responders, especially people who are volunteers and not used to working in traffic all the time and sometimes get pretty intense when there's a fire or something else that they have to deal with and sometimes they forget that they're in the midst of traffic, whereas somebody who works at it every day may not have that level of comfort and, indeed, be a little bit more cautious.
With those few words I would hope that the government comes up with some kind of an enforcement process that will work and, indeed, make the workplace safer for the people, our very many important emergency responders. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.
MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I'm also very pleased to stand here today in my place and say a few positive things about this bill, because it is positive . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: And the minister.
MR. THERIAULT: And also the minister. It's a bill that is just good old common sense. The problem with it is there's not enough common courtesy on our highways when our firemen and our policemen and our ambulance drivers are out there on the highway working. Seeing a red light flashing - a red light to me means stop, not slow down. Usually most people with good common courtesy will stop when they see a red light flashing, no matter where it is, because usually it means there is a problem, and usually where there's a problem common people with common courtesy will stop and see maybe if they could help in some way, not try to go by at a high speed to do more harm.
I think education is the key word there, and the key thing that probably the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal could add to this bill, to educate the people on our highways to the dangers that are there. If we were all out there today, sitting in our seats along the highway and we had a red light up for the people to stop so we could hear ourselves speak and they weren't stopping - because it happens right in this Chamber, Mr. Speaker, you have to go over and put this window down at times when big trucks are going by here, and I hear it every day but the traffic has to travel - it is just good, common sense, and it is good, common sense also for our highway workers. That was also brought to the attention of this House last session, or a year ago, about slowing down for the highway workers and yellow flashing lights - it's just all a good, common-sense thing to do.
I agree with my colleagues, too, about enforcing this. How does the minister, how does the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal enforce this bill? I mentioned it before, it has to be through education - to educate the people, the drivers on our roads, of the seriousness of this problem that is out there, because it is serious. When there are red lights flashing, it is serious, and people have to be educated about that.
With those few words - as I say, it is just a good, common-sense thing to do, and a great bill and I look forward to voting for this - I'll take my seat, Mr. Speaker. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.
The honourable Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
HON. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank all the interveners for their worthwhile comments. In particular I draw reference to the volunteer firefighters who made sure they stood in their place and had their say over the last couple of days on this issue, and of course our colleagues, the members for Hants West and Sackville-Cobequid, and their professional experience as paramedics.
Of course, what a final way to finish off this stage of the debate by hearing from the good member for Digby-Annapolis as he stood in his place; it's great to see you back and we welcome you with the support of this bill.
So with those few comments, I would like to thank the interveners and I would move that the bill now proceed to the Law Amendments Committee as the process continues in our historic House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 1. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 2.
Bill No. 2 - Motor Vehicle Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
HON. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, again, I stand in my place and introduce Bill No. 2, an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Motor Vehicle Act, to Increase the Penalties for Impaired Drivers. This is an important piece of legislation. I'm looking forward to hearing from all sides of the House when it comes to this particular piece of legislation.
I should point out that we as a new government are reintroducing legislation that will toughen the consequences for people caught driving with a blood alcohol level of .05. First introduced last Fall, this legislation builds on earlier legislative enforcement and awareness initiatives, initiatives that were brought forward to this House by the good member for
Cumberland South. I thank him for his initiative at that time and the direction he has given me as the new minister. This is a good piece of legislation. We are obliged, of course, to say, as I've said many times, not one particular political Party has the patent on good ideas and the member for Cumberland South, based upon his experience in an earlier career - if you can call what we do now a career - I want to thank him again publicly for the welcome addition and this initiative is going to continue.
Currently, people who blow between .05 and .08 on a roadside alcohol screening test receive a 24-hour licence suspension. This legislation will increase the suspension time;
bottom line, it will increase the suspension time. Impaired driving is a tragedy. It is the leading cause of vehicle collision fatalities and injuries in our province. On average, 22 Nova Scotians - I repeat that number, 22 Nova Scotians - die every year due to impaired driving. That is absolutely scandalous and we have to do something as legislators about this. This accounts for roughly one-quarter of all road fatalities each year in Nova Scotia.
These are preventable deaths. Evidence indicates that drinking and driving with a low blood alcohol content poses significant risks to all road users, not just the drivers - pedestrians, young people in the crosswalks and various other people close to or using our highways.
As part of the province's impaired driving strategy, it has been recommended that Nova Scotia's current low blood alcohol content roadside suspensions be revised to reflect longer suspension times. Licence suspensions with this new legislation will increase to seven days for a first suspension, 15 days for a second, and 30 days for a third and subsequent incident. Repeat offenders, when it comes to drinking and driving - we said the other evening when we were in budget estimates, when we were talking about cellphone issues brought forward by the member for Clare - it is socially unacceptable to drink and drive. Now we have to make the next step to understand that people have to be absolutely opposed to anyone who is going to make that ridiculously stupid decision to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after they have been drinking.
I know that members of this House know, based on my previous career, stupid is not a word that was ever allowed in my classroom. Stupid was never a word allowed around the dining room in my home, but it is absolutely irresponsible for Nova Scotians to in any way consider drinking and driving.
People will also be required to pay a licence reinstatement fee of $89.63. Maybe the best way we can send the message is enforcement is there, suspensions are there. But you also have to make sure, we hit offenders where it sometimes hurts the most - in the pocketbook. This measure supports our ongoing efforts to fight impaired driving, including
the alcohol ignition interlock program, the integrated impaired driving enforcement unit - these are all valuable initiatives that we must, of course, continue to work with.
In this particular profession we have the opportunity to meet on occasion some motivated Nova Scotians, and I know that I've had the opportunity because of my colleague, the member for Cumberland South, to be introduced to the national president of MADD Canada, Margaret Miller. Margaret Miller, of course, has a tragic story to tell, but she's living proof to the fact that she is going to make a difference because of the loss of her son in a tragic incident involving drinking and driving. When this bill was introduced, Margaret was present and, if I may, I'll table a copy of this article that was on the front page of The ChronicleHerald, written by David Jackson, a provincial reporter, in which Margaret is quoted as saying, "It's a wonderful thing to see happen, and we know that it's going to save lives."
Mr. Speaker, that says it all for this minister, that should say it all, although I want to hear from members present, that says it all when you get that sort of endorsement. Again, the member for Cumberland South, thank you for the initiative and hopefully this piece of legislation will proceed through our House after members have their say, after we of course go into the Law Amendments Committee and make sure this is a piece of legislation that will soon be law in this province. With those comments, I'll take my place.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.
HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise to say a few words on Bill No. 2. As the minister indicated, this piece of legislation was introduced by the former government back in the Fall of 2008. Unfortunately, it did not get passed by the House at that time and, hopefully, this time this bill will certainly become law.
Drinking and driving on our roads is not allowed. We all know that, yet drinking and driving continues to be a leading cause of accidents on our roads. When I look at the department's tally sheet for accidents in the year 2006 involving alcohol, when I look at the number of collisions involving alcohol, we have 507 accidents, and the total number of property damage collisions involving alcohol - 275. The total number of injuries involving alcohol - 209 accidents. The total number of injuries where alcohol was involved in these accidents is 318.
Mr. Speaker, every year when the department releases how many people have lost their lives in accidents on our roads, again, we all know that these accidents could have been prevented. When I look at these numbers from 2001 up to 2007 - the 2008 statistics have not been made available yet - but starting at 2001, 31 people lost their lives on our roads where alcohol was involved; 2002, 34 people; 2003, 39 people; 2004, 22 people; 2005, 26 people; 2006, 29 people; 2007, 32 people. Now, looking at those statistics, unfortunately the numbers aren't dropping, aren't going down. It seems, you know, at times they are stable or they're increasing. Yet we all know that these accidents could have been prevented. So, again, we
have to ask ourselves, you know - unfortunately, there is a message that appears not to be understood by some individuals.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, when you look at these statistics every year, you feel, as legislators, there is much more that needs to be done in order to make our roads safer. We know that not every driver who drinks and drives has accidents. So, of course, when you look at these numbers, you know you don't have an entire picture of exactly how many people are actually drinking and driving on our roads in Nova Scotia. We also know that some drivers who have been drinking and are driving get picked up by the police.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to share with you and members of the House, an article that appeared last summer from the Valley, from the RCMP in Kings County. They were saying that there is an alarming increase in the number of impaired drivers. The RCMP had laid 83 charges connected to drinking and driving since April 1st, so when they compared to the previous year, the total number of charges in the entire preceding year was 96. Again, for whatever reason, instead of seeing those numbers dropping, it seems to be going in the other direction.
Again, I'm sure we don't need to hear statistics for our entire province in order for us to understand that we have individuals that are getting behind the wheel, that are drinking and driving on our highways to tell us that we have a problem. As legislators, of course we need to try to respond to the problems that we do have on our highways.
I'm sure I'm not the only member in this Legislature that has attended some MADD Canada kickoff campaigns. I've had the pleasure, especially in the last number of years, to attend a number of kickoff campaigns with the Digby County chapter of MADD Canada. Again, every year the message is to try to get out to young and not-so-young drivers, to the general public, to families, that drinking and driving is not allowed on our roads. We need to get the message out. These awareness campaigns are vital, they're critical, there are never enough of them. When you look at the statistics involving accidents on our roads and especially alcohol being involved in some of those accidents, you have to again tell yourself, we need a lot more of these awareness campaigns to make our roads safer. Again, we need to try to convince people not to get behind the wheel when they're drinking and driving.
Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the many MADD volunteers across Nova Scotia for stepping forward and helping to convince Nova Scotians that drinking and driving is certainly not allowed, certainly does not mix - drinking and driving - but yet, for whatever reason continues to be a problem on our roads. I guess when I look at the efforts of all these volunteers, they're certainly not going unnoticed. At the end of the day, if one accident can be prevented, one life can be saved, then we are all very grateful for their dedication and hard work. Again, we have a group of dedicated volunteers in this province who are doing a tremendous job.
Currently, as the minister indicated, people caught drinking with a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08, receive a 24-hour suspension in our province. Now the amendment that's before the House this morning, the amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act, will increase the suspension time drivers will receive if they get caught driving with a blood alcohol level of between .05 and .08. On a first suspension, the suspension will increase from 24 hours to a seven-day suspension. On a repeat offence, on a second suspension, drivers will receive a 15-day suspension and, of course, on a third one drivers who are caught behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level of .05 will receive a 30-day suspension. On top of that, they will have to pay a reinstatement fee of $89.63 for drivers.
Mr. Speaker, before I wrap up my comments on this bill, for the record I want to recognize the many drivers, young and not so young drivers, who don't drink and drive and respect the law in Nova Scotia, absolutely. Many times we all hear of stories of individuals who have been designated to drive while others may enjoy themselves. So it is important to recognize that many drivers do take their actions and their driving seriously and make sure that they don't drink and drive and these drivers should be congratulated.
We're talking about suspending drivers who are under the influence of alcohol when they're behind the wheel but, at the same time, I think we have to acknowledge there are many Nova Scotians who get behind the wheel and they do respect the law and they don't drink and drive and those individuals need to be congratulated, Mr. Speaker.
In order to make our roads safer, we, as legislators, need to address the seriousness of drinking and driving on our roads. By supporting this amendment that is before the House this morning, it will certainly make a difference, it will help to address the seriousness of drinking and driving on our roads and will save lives. So with those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.
HON. MARILYN MORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It gives me great pleasure today to welcome our delegation in the Speaker's Gallery. They are from numerous areas of Scotland and they are representing the Scottish Continuing International Professional Development Program. They are here to learn more about English and Gaelic language programming in the school system in Nova Scotia and, as well, through discussions with the Office of Gaelic Affairs, the group has been very interested in seeing how Gaelic development at the community level has been an important building block in terms of Gaelic's presence in the provinces and this can help inform institutional learning programs.
I would like to personally thank Laureen Murphy with the Strait Regional School Board for her work in assisting in the organizing of the delegation's schedule while visiting the province. Mr. Speaker, since the late 1700s Gaelic-speaking Scots have been settling in Nova Scotia. In fact by the mid 1800s, Gaelic was the third most common mother tongue in
pre-Confederation Canada. As we all know, after many centuries of change, the language still lives on in Cape Breton and in pockets of mainland Nova Scotia where Gaelic, a cultural linguistic tie to our past, is very much alive.
Since 2002, Nova Scotia has had a memorandum of understanding between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Highland Council in Scotland. This is a memorandum that seeks to develop closer co-operation between our province and the Highland Council in areas of language, kinship ties, culture and the exploration of economic opportunities. Mr. Speaker, 36 projects have been completed to date as a result of this agreement.
As you can see, Mr. Speaker, it is through co-operative agreements like this one and the continued support of governments, that important delegations like these colleagues can come together with the Department of Education and the Office of Gaelic Affairs, to look at best practices, exchange ideas and work to maintain the vitality of our history, culture and languages.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to close by wishing the delegation success in its mission to Nova Scotia, with hopes that our continued work together encourages our youth to learn and enjoy their rich heritage. Fàilte gu Albainn Nuaidh, fàilte dhan roinn bhòidhich againn - which means welcome to Nova Scotia, welcome to our beautiful province. (Applause)
I'd like to ask the members of the delegation to rise as I call each of their names and to remain standing as the honourable members welcome them to the House: Audrey Kellacher, Monica Sanz-Malet, David Findlay, Ann MacDonald, Donalda McComb, Catriona Hay, Lisa Snedden and David Sheratt. I ask my colleagues to warmly welcome them. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests here this morning and do hope they enjoy their time here in Nova Scotia.
The honouable member for Cumberland South.
HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise to my feet and say a few words about Bill No. 2. Before I do, I want to welcome our guests to the gallery as well, I want to welcome them to New Scotland. For those who haven't been to Scotland before, I have and it's a beautiful country and the hospitality is second to none. We
appreciate you coming to see us and we hope you have a great stay while you're here and enjoy yourselves.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commend the minister. The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has brought forward Bill No. 2 which changes the Motor Vehicle Act. I think everyone in this province will welcome these changes. When it comes to highway safety, to protecting our residents and those who travel our highways, I don't think we can do enough to ensure we protect motorists on the highways.
We've heard some of the stats both by the minister and by my colleague to my right, the honourable member for Clare with regard to fatalities and injuries on our highways. I'm going to repeat something that was said to me by the former Premier and the former government when I took over Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. At the time, the Premier said to me, annually in our province we have approximately 100 people killed on our highways and that is far, far too many. You can attribute that to inattention, you can attribute some of those to speed and for all kinds of reasons, weather, but a large number of those, as we heard today, are as a result of people who still will drink and drive in this province.
Before I begin my comments about the bill itself, I do want to say that - I'm going to take an opportunity, I may be right on this, the honourable Attorney General, the Minister of Justice, I believe a police officer for approximately 30-plus years, I guess, I'm not sure if he himself was a Breathalyzer technician or not. No, he wasn't. Anyway I'm going to have a few words to say in a few moments - I was a Breathalyzer technician so I had the opportunity to take the training. Also to better understand how alcohol can affect your body and how people think that they can have those two drinks and get behind the wheel and feel they're in full control, that it doesn't affect or impair their ability to drive and how wrong they are.
But I am hoping the Attorney General, the Minister of Justice will take advantage of the opportunity - this is a very, very important issue for police in this province - I hope that he will take advantage of the opportunity to rise and give, from his perspective and his years of experience with the RCMP with regard to how important this is. How he thinks we may be able to strengthen this and other bills with regard to making our highways safer.
I do want to say at the outset that we'll come into this Legislature - and again I credit the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal for bringing this forward. Early on, when this session first began, two of the first bills brought to this House - Bill No. 1 and Bill No. 2 - are very important bills with regard to highway safety. I do want to congratulate the minister on that. I do want to say that when we bring legislation forward, we're looking for members from all sides of this House to offer some other options, solutions, to strengthen legislation. Mr. Speaker, I hope that will happen and I hope the minister will listen and actually try and incorporate in legislation some other ideas that may come from around the House, that may not necessarily just be from his side.
I do want to say, Mr. Speaker, that whatever legislation we bring in this House, there are two components that have to be given full consideration - one is around education and one is around enforcement. When it comes to enforcement, and I think the honourable Minister of Justice would agree, police in this province are taxed very heavily when it comes to doing their job. Over the years policing has become a very complex profession, career, where 25 or 30 or 40 years ago training may not have been as intense as it is today but certainly today, in all aspects of policing, the requirement for very specific training on very specific issues is a must.
As we continue to bring in bills and legislation in this province, continue to bring in programs and services, we're also putting more pressure on police officers in Nova Scotia to do their job. As we heard in estimates last week, Mr. Speaker, for everything we do in this province regarding law enforcement, whether it is legislation or additional police officers, that also puts more pressure on the system.
Mr. Speaker, the previous government made a commitment of 250 additional police officers in Nova Scotia and I think that this province was well served by that commitment and the number of officers who did manage to be put in place before the government changed, I think if you look at the results across the province, wherever they've been placed, I think there are phenomenal results being achieved and I think it is very well received by residents in the communities of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, those 250 police officers would go a long way in regard to enforcing this bill before us today, Bill No. 2. We've heard some discussion about reviewing further positions - I believe 33 this year - that we would have hoped would have been placed by now, in fact, should have been. There was a commitment to Cape Breton Regional Municipality, I believe of 10, they were looking forward to implementing those positions and incorporating them into their force.
As well, Mr. Speaker, of course there are a couple in New Glasgow - I know I told the minister in estimates that one of the first groups I met with when I took over the position of Minister of Justice three years ago, in 2006, was a group of police officers from Pictou. The RCMP and the chiefs of the municipal forces came and met and they were looking for additional officers to attack many fronts, I guess specifically at the time one was certainly around drugs in Pictou County.
Mr. Speaker, when we bring legislation like this forward, again it's great legislation but it takes people, police officers to enforce it. We can bring in this legislation, but if we don't back it up with resources it's going to be very difficult and all we're going to do, again, is put more pressure on police forces out there that are already, I believe in many cases, maxed out regarding their ability to do their job without additional resources from the
province. So, I think that when we're talking about the enforcement side of it, we have to look at what we can do further, beyond this legislation, to support that.
I talked the other day, and I'll say again regarding legislation around increasing the penalties for those who would drink and drive, from .05 up to .08; it is not unlike the cell phone legislation that we brought into this House in the past; it is not unlike the legislation around doubling fines in the workplace as the result of accidents we've seen on highways, where workers have to work in roadways and on highways, where we felt there was a need to try to get people to slow down. In this case, we need to do all we can to ensure that people will think again before they get behind the wheel of a vehicle when they've had even one drink.
Mr. Speaker, I've told my kids all their lives, and they're both adults now, but I've always said to them, if you have one drink - I don't care where they are, if they called me and said Dad, I had a drink tonight and I took a drive home in a taxi and it cost me $80 - I'll pay for it. I've told them that sometimes you can be a victim of circumstances that are out of your control. Someone may have only one drink, but it could be that time where someone dashes out on a dark, wet street; it could be someone who slips through a stop sign and if your driving ability and your ability to keep that vehicle under control is not 100 per cent, just having one drink can have a huge effect.
I started to say earlier that - I forget what year it was, it was in the early 1980s - when I actually took my Breathalyzer technician training at the time, it was a two-week course in Debert. Basically police officers would go there - it was given in the bunkers of Debert, and when you went there you basically spent the whole two weeks underground. For me, of all the courses I'd taken through my enforcement career, the Breathalyzer technician course was the one that really opened my eyes most to the effect that alcohol can have on a person's ability to drive.
Part of that training would be - of course, you'd have all different sizes of officers of different ages, different metabolisms, so part of that training as police officers, actually - and not driving afterward, by the way, I'll make that clear - part of that training was that officers would consume different types of alcohol, they would consume different levels of alcohol, and of course, again, you'd have officers of different sizes and metabolisms. They would also consume different amounts of food - some would have larger portions of food, some wouldn't have any, and based on that, technicians then would actually have their fellow officers provide breath samples. Then comparisons would be given as a result of those samples as to how the results of the alcohol consumption by that officer was affected either by their size, maybe by the amount of sleep they had, by the amount of food they consumed, and the results were, in my mind, very interesting and something that I learned a lot from.
In subsequent years after that, I think police officers would tell you that, generally speaking, when you stop someone that you believe has been drinking, the majority of times -
I can't tell you exactly how many, but the majority of times - a driver will say they've had two drinks. Everybody's had two drinks. I've actually taken people in and had them blow and had them say to me that they've had two drinks and be triple the allowable amount, in excess of .200. I've seen people put in jail for impaired driving that basically had passed out when taken into custody by the police.
I know we're not talking about that degree of impaired driving here today, but I guess the point I wanted to make was that we're talking about .05 to .08, and I think statistically and historically it can be shown that level of impairment from one person to another can greatly affect their ability to drive. I think that it's only a fool who thinks they can have two or three beer - or two or three drinks of rum, or whatever it may be - and they still get behind the wheel of a vehicle, they can still drive, still be in full control.
I want to say to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal today that why I'm so proud of a bill like this is that this bill will pass, it will have full support, and I really want to see it move through and become law. After this passes and becomes law, the minister may never, ever know in his lifetime whose life was saved as a result of this legislation, but there will be people. If we didn't pass this bill and someday you pick up the paper and there's a fatality somewhere and someone was killed, and maybe they had a small amount of alcohol in their system, we'd only have to wonder - could we have saved that life, could we have prevented that accident from happening by passing legislation such as this? I believe the answer is absolutely yes.
The minister should be very proud - and I know him personally, and I know he's a very honourable person and I know that he takes very seriously his duties as a minister - and he should be very proud of this bill because, again, there will be lives saved in our province as a result of this legislation being passed in Nova Scotia.
It was mentioned earlier by the honourable minister about Margaret Miller. Margaret Miller is the President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the country. She's the national president, and Margaret's son, Bruce, was a young police officer in Springhill. Of course, that's where I spent a good part of my career in policing, in Springhill. I didn't have the opportunity to work with Bruce, he actually came there after I left.
Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, in talking to friends of mine who are still on the force there - the chief, the deputy, and other officers - Bruce Miller had a very promising career in policing. Bruce Miller was one of these young officers - he wasn't from Springhill and we all know what these small communities are like, you're either from the community or you're not. Bruce was from the Shubenacadie Valley where his mom and dad had a farm and by the way, Margaret, they have an annual golf tournament every year. I don't know if the minister has had the opportunity yet - yes, he has and I have as well - so I would encourage members
here to support Margaret Miller and that golf course. It's held every year, I believe in June, because it's raising money to fight this very cause that we're here talking about today. So I would encourage members, if you haven't taken advantage of that program to help them, I would encourage you to give it consideration.
So Bruce Miller came to Springhill as a young graduate, a young cadet. Again, I never had the opportunity to work with him but I certainly met him on many occasions. What struck me about this young guy the first time that I ever met him was that he was a big guy with big hands but he was a very gentle person. Again, in speaking to my friends in Springhill who were on the force and worked with Bruce for the short time that he was there - this young man's short life - in the chief's words he had tremendous potential and, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, because someone made the wrong decision to consume alcohol, to drink and drive, drive drunk, they killed this young man.
Mr. Speaker, his family has been deprived of a son, children have been deprived of a father, a young man who had a very promising career in Springhill was cut way short, and I can tell you as well the community of Springhill was in mourning, and they're still mourning, for this young man along with his family and along with the police department. He was very well received in our community. He became an immediate part of the family. He fit in very well with the young people. He fit in very well with the seniors. He was looking forward to establishing himself in a home with a family in Springhill and having a long career. Unfortunately, that was not to be and young Bruce was killed by an impaired driver.
Mr. Speaker, in talking to his mom, you know, she's very proud of Bruce and his career and, of course, she has taken up the cause, getting involved in this province in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving and eventually becoming the national president. I've heard - and I'm sure the minister has as well - Margaret speak on many occasions at events and she speaks very proudly of Bruce. She's not going to allow the death of her son just to be an event that happened and then not being able to make some good come out of that, and she is certainly doing that. She has brought our province and this issue to the national scene over and over again.
Mr. Speaker, when you drive into Springhill, and sometime when the minister is hopefully up our way some day, when you drive into Springhill, on the left when you come in off the Trans-Canada Highway, there's a large billboard sign and there's a picture of Bruce Miller on that sign. It's a Mothers Against Drunk Driving sign but there's a picture of Bruce and that will be there forever - a reminder to our community. The day we unveiled that, there were youth there, a youth council from the high school that took part as well. Again, I hope it's a reminder to all drivers and all motorists, especially our youth who are inexperienced in driving and inexperienced in many things in life, I hope for them that it's a daily reminder, when they see that picture of Bruce, of the tragedy that can happen to a family when someone chooses to drink and drive.
Mr. Speaker, back to this bill, we presently have a 24-hour suspension for someone who would blow in a Breathalyzer .05 or higher, up to .08. I always questioned whether - and I'll go back to the Breathalyzer training because you could actually have someone blow tonight and they could blow .06 or .07 or .05 but the training would show that that person actually could be on the rise. So 20 minutes later they could blow .10 or an hour later they could actually blow .12, where they would then be breaking the law in this country. They would exceed the limit that they're allowed but because the law is designed so that the sample is taken at the time, then caused a decision to be made whether a person can be charged or not, and of course it could be on the way down as well.
The other thing I've seen as well, Mr. Speaker, is where someone has been arrested for impaired driving and been charged and, in fact, has been detained and released in the morning and has gone out and driven and got caught again without consuming more alcohol, and still blow in excess of the legal amount. So I guess my point that I'm trying to make is that we're dealing with an issue of .05 to .08, but really there are so many parameters around what their sample results will be, based on all kinds of things, that someone who blows .05 actually could, a short time later, be legally impaired in this country.
So I think that this step today is a great step with regard to attacking the issue of impaired driving. I mentioned earlier about enforcement - I'm hoping, Mr. Speaker, that the minister will also engage his department. He has a great department, a lot of good staff there. I really enjoyed working with them, and I know that they are very keen on issues such as this. I'm really hoping that the minister will engage his staff and develop an education program, a media blitz. I'm hoping that he will bring people on board like the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The Insurance Bureau of Canada are more than willing to help get the message out in cases such as this. I have had the opportunity to work with them over the past. Bill Adams is the director, and they do great things in this province with regard to road safety and highway safety.
I'm hoping that the minister will give some thought to engaging organizations such as the Insurance Bureau, his staff in the department; obviously, our teachers in this province can play a large role. I know the minister himself is a former educator, and he can involve the educators of Nova Scotia, the school boards, and put out a strong message there that the gamble, the risk that people - particularly young people - are running, inexperienced people running in regard to drinking before they drive.
The Department of Education, I believe, is as key as the enforcement, because if we can prevent these events from happening, as opposed to just responding to them, I think we'll have done our duty here.
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier about the 250 police officers, and I want to mention as well the integrated policing units in southwest Nova Scotia. I had the opportunity to go
down and basically kick off that organization, that unit, one year; as a result of being there, I talked to the officers myself, and since then they have put a tremendous amount of effort in both with the RCMP and with the municipal units, with regard to highway enforcement. The numbers - and I'm sure the minister has them - the success they have had, and unfortunately, as the member for Clare has said, as indicated earlier, we're not seeing the numbers decrease. But what we are doing is enhancing enforcement. So whether people are getting the message or not, or whether or not people are getting any smarter, more are being apprehended.
I think that southwest unit is a good example of what can happen when you put the resources in place, when you give police the resources, the additional people, and the funds they need to go out and do their job. Now, they've dedicated a lot of hours on the highway, and they have - I believe it's in the hundreds now, the numbers, that they have apprehended people without licenses, without insurance, people who are suspended and, of course, impaired drivers.
Mr. Speaker, again, I'll say that although people may have different opinions about where that money should be spent and where the enforcement should be, out of those impaired drivers that that southwest unit apprehended, how do we know which one - and it may have been just one - of those impaired drivers that they apprehended was going to eventually kill somebody, maybe even that same day? We don't know, but what we do know is that it is happening too many times on our highways in Nova Scotia.
There are many, many great programs in Nova Scotia to fight the battle of impaired driving, and I believe one of them is Operation Red Nose. I know that some members of the House have taken advantage of the opportunity to take part in this great program. There are volunteers who will voluntarily offer to drive people home when they've been drinking, whether it's from a Christmas party or whether it's from the local bar or whether it is from - from work. We can't say enough in regard to the great efforts by these volunteers. That is just one, and I know of other programs that are available where people are doing their part. I believe the public is doing its part in regard to fighting impaired driving.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to mention as well that MADD Canada sponsored a University of British Columbia study in February of this year, 2009. Just a few statistics, if I could, and I'll table this if you wish. It says that, over the eight-year period between 1999 and 2006, it is estimated that impaired driving killed 9,698 people. Can you imagine? That's the size, I think, of some of the communities in Nova Scotia - Truro, I think . . .
AN HON MEMBER: More than Yarmouth.
MR. SCOTT: More than Yarmouth. I don't think Truro has many more than 9,000 people, I think 10,000 people, so imagine, that's the size of a community in our province, a whole community gone. That is bad enough, but the sad part is it was preventable. Every one of these accidents was preventable.
I always get Margaret Miller, and Susan MacAskill - any time I had the opportunity to meet with them, Mothers Against Drunk Driving - she's from down in Kings West, and every time I would say about impaired drivers being involved in accidents and hurting or killing people, she would say, no, you're wrong, they are not accidents. And she is right - they are not accidents, because they are preventable. So they are not accidents - 9,698 people killed as a result of impaired drivers.
Injuries, Mr. Speaker, 572,187 people injured in this country as a result of impaired drivers, and damage to 1,891,000 vehicles. Can you imagine that much damage, those many people injured, and those many people killed because someone decided to drink and drive? I hope the young Pages are listening today. They are, they are nodding their heads yes - and I'm glad to see that. These are young people who are starting out in life, they are in the midst of their educational careers and they're going to be faced with all kinds of tough decisions as they go through life.
AN HON. MEMBER: They could be MLAs.
MR. SCOTT: They could be sitting here someday. Yes, they could be sitting where you are, Mr. Speaker. You never know, they could be the Speaker. But you don't want to sit over there - you want to sit over here with us. (Laughter)
Seriously, these young people - and I love to go into the schools and talk to the kids because what an opportunity to influence young people with your own experiences. We've all made mistakes, I've made them - you know, you're going to be faced with all kinds of decisions, financial, education, jobs and all that. But you will be at a party somewhere, if you haven't already been there, where friends of yours are going to have had a few drinks and they're going to want to say, I'm okay, I've only had a couple. In 20 years of policing, I've heard that a lot - I've only had two drinks. I'm okay, you can come with me, I'll drive you home.
It's not easy to do, but I'm saying to you what I've said to my kids, that you should say no, that really someone else's life is at risk, and yours is at risk. It is not easy to do because they're friends and there's a lot of peer pressure in regard to young people, but really they're our future and we want them to make the right choices, the right decision. So my encouragement to these young people here today is to say no to drinking and driving. Even to friends of yours drinking, tell them no - in fact you try and convince them to let you drive, because you're not going to drink.
Mr. Speaker, you know these stats are astounding. When I read these I thought, so many people hurt, so many people killed, so much damage in this country as a result of impaired driving, and this bill that is before us today, Bill No. 2, brought in by the Minister
of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal - and, again, I applaud him - is a tremendous, tremendous step towards fighting the issue of impaired driving.
Mr. Speaker, of course the financial cost is one thing, but the emotional cost - you know, we have police officers here in this room, we have paramedics here in this room, we have firefighters in this room, and I'll bet you (Interruption) And of course we have educators. That's the great thing about this Legislature. It is a well-rounded group of 52 people from all walks of life, and I'll bet if everyone in this room hasn't had a family member impacted somehow by an impaired driver, they know someone who has. That's a pretty sad testament to say that.
Mr. Speaker, you know in my own career I've had the unfortunate duty to deliver bad news to families as a result of impaired driving. One particular night comes to my mind - in Moncton one night, in regard to a young man, it was his graduation night from high school and he was killed. It is not a very pleasant task to have to go tell a mother and father that their son died that night, on graduation night.
There's only so much we can do and I understand that. We can bring laws in, we can bring in bills such as the minister has brought in here today, Bill No. 2, changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, but I think we need to work collectively. In this House a lot of the time emotions run high and we have opposing views on many issues and I'm sure I'm going to hear from some of my colleagues here today with regard to this bill but I'll bet one thing, this is a bill that's before this House that we all can support.
I do think there may be some opportunity to beef up the bill. The minister mentioned I introduced this bill a year ago and he's right, I did. But I think there are other things we can do, whether it's around the fines, the suspensions. There's an opportunity to go even further.
If everybody in this room would just think of this for one moment. Can you imagine tonight, if you did go to a party, wherever you may be, and you had two or three drinks and you thought it was okay to drive and you thought, I only have a couple of blocks to go. You got behind the wheel of your vehicle and you drove and you only got a block away and the police stop you and you blew the Breathalyzer and say you blew .06 and you had your licence suspended for 24 hours because under the old system it's 24 hours. Can you imagine going out next week or next month and doing the same thing again? I can't. I'd be scared to death. If I did that and was apprehended by the police and lost my licence for 24 hours, I would be scared to death. I'd be scared to death if I was going to drink again and not drive.
You know, there are people who do it. I can't imagine, we're going to pass this bill - and it's a great piece of legislation - and there will be people in this province who will be suspended for blowing between .05 and .08. That's right, as the Minister of Justice is
indicating, there'll be the first time, there'll be the second and third times. So how many times should that be allowed to happen before we seize that vehicle and dispose of it?
People are allowed to make a mistake, we all make mistakes. Maybe it could even be argued under some kind of circumstances, I don't know what they could be, but maybe it could happen a second time, but can you imagine a third time? Somebody blows, keeping in mind what I said earlier, they may be fortunate to blow a .05, .06, .07, .08, at that time they're blowing the Breathalyzer, but an hour later they could be .10 or .12, which would make them legally impaired in this country. Can you imagine someone doing that one, two, three times and still being able to get those keys the next day and take that vehicle and go home as if nothing happened? We have people who have lost their lives in this province, like Bruce Miller, as a result of a drunk driver.
Mr. Speaker, I think somewhere along the line, maybe this is the time, I'm really looking forward to what we're going to hear at the Law Amendments Committee. Maybe the minister already knows who is going to appear at the Law Amendments Committee. I'm hoping Margaret Miller and Susan MacAskill come and I hope they'll tell us this is great, they want to see us do more. I am hoping that someone will suggest the possibility of an amendment and maybe it will be me that if someone does this three times, maybe it's time they lost their vehicle.
We could take that vehicle, dispose of it, it could be a $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 vehicle and put that money back into programs that would help encourage and educate young people like our Pages who are here today not to drink and drive. What a clear, strong message to someone: if you make a mistake we're willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, possibly the second time - maybe not - but definitely not the third time. Maybe there are those who would advocate that if you do it the first time it should happen, but at least on the second or third offence, maybe there should be the opportunity to seize and dispose of the vehicle to ensure that person wouldn't go out and commit that crime again. It is a crime, Mr. Speaker.
I'm going to wind down here, I guess one of my colleagues to my right is waiting to speak on this bill. I'm very proud of this bill, I want to tell the minister I'm very thankful to him for bringing it forward. We're very, very supportive of this bill. The only thing I would like to see with the bill is if there are any opportunities, Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, to beef it up. I don't know if the minister heard what I said a moment ago, but maybe we should be looking at second or third offence, seize the vehicle and dispose of it. I think people would get a strong signal then: if you're going to drink and drive in the Province of Nova Scotia, you're going to pay the price, instead of someone else paying the price because you made the decision to drink and drive.
With those few comments, I'll take my place. I do want to thank the minister again, a tremendous effort on his behalf. This will be one of the first bills brought in during this
session. I look forward to supporting this bill, seeing it move through, and then I look forward to hopefully some amendments, maybe by the general public who may see opportunities for us to make it even stronger.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I won't say I'm pleased to rise to speak to a bill that deals with such a preventable situation in our province and the devastation that it causes in our province when it comes to impaired driving. I'm sure all of us in this House have had family members who have been on every side of this issue, or friends, from the person being picked up or families and friends who have had their families torn apart by the fact that someone has chosen to get behind the wheel and drive their vehicle.
When this bill was introduced by the former government and the former Minister of Justice at the time, I believe, the honourable member for Cumberland South, we were very supportive of this and we were looking for it to go even further. One of the things - and he had mentioned earlier in his remarks - that I have concerns with is the amendment that not only are we going to give Nova Scotians a break the first time they blow .05 but we're going to do it a second time and a third time. I want to echo and support the comments that came from the honourable member for Cumberland South that you can make this mistake once, but when you can repeatedly do it, there need to be consequences that go beyond a 15-day suspension. It needs to be a clear message sent to Nova Scotians that we will not tolerate any type of impaired driving in this province, and I believe this bill needs to reflect that. I'm not convinced today that the adjustment for a second and third offence is enough of a penalty.
I am also looking forward to the Law Amendments Committee and listening and hearing from Nova Scotians who have had to deal with this tragedy on a personal level, those families that have been ripped apart by a decision made by somebody else, someone they may have never known, to get behind the wheel and drive. We need to be standing beside those families and sending a clear message that we may tolerate the .05 once, but we certainly will never tolerate it again as long as you have a driver's licence, in my view. You are flirting with disaster, and unfortunately that disaster has ramifications for people far beyond you as a driver and your family, it goes into other families and entire communities.
The member for Cumberland South spoke of his own experiences as a police officer, having to knock on someone's door to tell them, because of the irresponsible behaviour of another human being, your child will not have the opportunity to flourish, not have the opportunity to experience life, not have the opportunity to fully realize the dreams that they had for themselves and the dreams that you as a parent and a family had for them.
I cannot imagine being in his shoes or the shoes of the Minister of Justice or any other peace officer in our province who has to do that job. I cannot think of a more difficult task that they are asked to do. But it is preventable and we need to send a very strong message that
the 52 people in this House of Assembly will stand united on this issue around impaired driving. I believe this bill is moving in the right direction but it needs to be tougher. I don't believe there should be a second and third strike when it comes to impaired driving. If we're prepared to look the other way one time on .05, that one time is it. This isn't baseball, we don't get another shot, there isn't another game tomorrow. This could be the end of the line for some people and we need to make sure that the person who is willing to flirt with the law to that extent understands the consequences for them, otherwise another Nova Scotia family will have to suffer the consequences of their behaviour.
There was a previous bill brought in in the last session regarding interlocks, the interlock device. Well, I support wholeheartedly the use of the interlock device. I do not believe it should be used as a get out of jail free card and I believe that's what it presently is for the wealthy Nova Scotians. On your first-time offence, after three months, you can ask to be part of the interlock device program. You pay for that, it's on your car and it's there for the rest of your suspension.
Well, quite frankly, that's not a deterrent, that's a separate standard for wealthy Nova Scotians. If you can afford to put the interlock device in your car, if you can afford to go back and have the privilege of driving three months later, then your suspension should be increased. That device should stay in your car long after the 12 months. It should be there for 15 to 18 months, whatever the number, but there should be also a penalty for that. Driving your car is a privilege. It is a privilege. There are certain responsibilities with that privilege and the size of your wallet should not determine when you get behind the wheel again after you've had an impaired driving conviction.
This bill is moving in the right direction. I can tell you we will be caucusing this. We'll be listening to what's happening at the Law Amendments Committee, to provide ideas and suggestions that we believe will make this bill stronger and ideas that we believe will protect Nova Scotians. This issue, impaired driving, is preventable and we have the power inside this Chamber to provide real deterrents for people who are going to consider driving while impaired. There's a tremendous amount of great work happening not only in our province but across the country with MADD. Also, I want to tell you there's a tremendous amount of work happening in every one of our communities and our schools, young students who are leading the charge, talking about why we should not be getting behind the wheel drinking and driving.
One of my children is in Grade 12 and one of them graduated last year, they were exposed to the issue of impaired driving and the consequences of impaired driving a hundredfold more than I was 25 years ago. I'm going to tell you I've never been more proud of a generation when it comes to a particular issue than when it comes to impaired driving. While there are still challenges, while there are still some who fall victim to alcohol, the vast majority of young Nova Scotians and young Canadians understand the consequences far better than any of us did when we were their age. A lot of that goes back to their own
initiative. It goes back to the education system and it goes back to a willingness to talk about it. It goes back to a willingness of Nova Scotians to talk about the fact either they were caught for impaired driving and how embarrassed and ashamed they are of it or that they were part of a tragic accident. Either they were the victim of that accident or they were the person who caused that accident.
The more we have this conversation and the more we lay the facts on the table, I have no doubt that young Nova Scotians will lead this change and charge and continue to make a difference. They will pressure us, those of us of our generation who still think it's okay to get behind the wheel, they will pressure us to make sure we do the right thing. But I want to say to the minister, when that fails, we need to make sure that that legislation is there to punish that Nova Scotian who believes they are above the law. I want to congratulate the minister for bringing this forward. I also want to acknowledge the previous minister on his efforts to deal with the issue of impaired driving and I want to assure this House that our caucus will be looking at this piece of legislation, to add pieces to it, to strengthen it, to make it more positive, and we will listen to the issues at the Law Amendments Committee. With those few comments, I will take my seat.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to speak to this bill today. It's a great bill to bring before this House. As others have said, it was introduced last year and it's good that it's on the floor for debate today and in the days and weeks ahead, as it makes its way across to the Law Amendments Committee.
There's a lot to this bill, actually both members have covered quite a bit on this, as did the minister. There are a lot of people in this province who have been affected by this particular issue. I agree with the member for Annapolis. I'm not sure that it goes far enough, to be perfectly honest with you. Any bit of alcohol consumed and then getting behind the wheel, your cognitive ability has been impaired, we know that. I've spent a lot of years on the road and I've witnessed it first-hand, unfortunately, more than once, more than twice and more than three times. It's not one, two, three strikes and you're out, in my opinion, I think it is one strike and we had better have a serious look at what we're doing next. So I'd certainly like to see what comes about.
I know that people like Margaret Miller and Susan MacAskill are not going to come to Law Amendments Committee and say oh, I think that's okay. They're not going to look for the second and third chances, Mr. Speaker, they're going to be looking for - if you offend, you're done today. Fines of $89.50, or whatever it was, are not going to mean a thing to most people who drink and drive.
This will deter some, I think it will have a deterrence for some people, not only the fine but the fact that we're introducing it, we're going to be educating people on it, or at least I would like to think that we're going to educate people of all ages, starting maybe with the youngest in school, as we've heard about, and our younger folks who work here in our universities and people who like to partake in some refreshments from time to time. I have nothing against that, I think that's part of life and we socialize and we enjoy our time together and so on. That's a fact of life and that's fine.
I also instill in my kids who are still quite young - I have a 25-year-old, though, who we've gone through this with and fortunately she was smart enough not to drink and drive, and we were pleased with that. I think because of what I did for a living she probably got the message, Mr. Speaker, the severity of what can happen. I can tell you it is unbelievable the people who do this, who commit this offence and think oh, I'm going to have one or two, sometimes a couple of hours will pass by and well, it's been an hour or two and I'm going to have one more and then maybe I'm going to go home. They'll go out and jump in their cars and they may have three or four by the time it is all said and done, and some have a whole lot more than that and they still go out and drive.
The part that gets me is there are a lot of people who, if they can afford to buy the beer, they can probably afford to get a cab home. I've never been able to quite fathom this philosophy. Maybe it is because they are under an influence that they're not thinking as they should, the common sense piece is missed for some reason. I never could understand - I'll pay $5, $10, $20 tonight, I'll go to a local pub and I'll have a few beers, I probably should have left $5 or $7 in my pocket for a taxi home. It doesn't make any sense.
What we've seen more, over the years, are people who are more than willing to drive people home. There are many people who go to a club, a bar, a tavern, whatever you want to call it, who don't drink; they might have a pop or a non-alcoholic beverage, water, tea, coffee, whatever, and on many occasions have offered to drive people home. We see it all the time.
I'm a member of the Legion and have been for many years in Windsor. I go there on occasion. Last Saturday night they had a big event, it was a pub crawl. What did they do? It was quite interesting - actually it was not the first, I think it was the second one we've done - every team had to have a designated driver and I was a designated driver. They made you wear a little badge sort of thing, a number on your jacket. When you went in, you couldn't register that you actually took part and completed the task unless the driver checked in at the bar, with the barkeep. They marked it off that you were actually there and were not to be served any alcohol - not that any of them did or would. Everybody had a sober driver, everybody made the rounds, had a lot of fun, a great evening, and came back and partied and had a good time at the Legion afterwards.
That is just one example, we've heard others, about Operation Red Nose that goes on this time of year, or coming up in the New Year. There are many programs that could be put forward that will work. I can tell you, these things like the pub crawl are a great education for the members and the people. They are not just members who take part in this pub crawl, we had 21 or 22 teams of five that actually did it. A lot of them weren't Legion members but they saw it posted, came in for a night of fun. Of course it was our way of trying to attract new members, as a lot of social clubs do, and we had a great time that night.
The fact was that we were promoting the safety of this event with a designated driver, nobody drinking alcohol. Of course most of the clubs would offer you whatever you wanted to drink - a pop or whatever, on the house, that type of thing, which has been common practice for some years. I think, if you made it known that you were a designated driver, you were looked after just as well as the rest, but with a different beverage. That's great. Those are great programs and we need to do a lot more of that.
I've attended meetings and different events that MADD has put on over the years and had the opportunity to meet Margaret Miller and listen to her speak at different events. As the member for Cumberland South has alluded to, her passion is not going away. She'll never forget and rightfully so. There are a lot of families like Margaret Miller's, unfortunately, in this province, in this country and around the world who have lost loved ones, like Susan MacAskill, who I know very well from my area and members of her family who have been affected by this. Families have been absolutely ripped apart, some have been wiped out.
I can tell you right now, and I as I said in my years on the street as a paramedic, I have been witness to things that would turn your stomach, in all honesty. I can tell you something that I've never forgotten, in all of my career, is the smell of alcohol and blood. If you want to remember something - that's something, if you ever experienced, you would never forget. It stays with you because it's a horrible smell and it's part of what's just happened. A family has been ripped apart or, as I said, wiped out in cases. I have been at scenes where there have been three, four or five people killed. That is an experience that I wish no one in this room will ever have to go through in their lifetime, because it is not pleasant, it is very difficult. If you think it is difficult for the people who do the job on the street and work there, image if you were the family member who had to go through that. As the member for Cumberland South said, being a member of the police force, the RCMP who had to go and explain that to a parent, is a tough job. A tough job indeed.
But this is a good bill, Mr. Speaker, one that I hope people will pay a lot of attention to, one that I hope will see some great numbers come in the doors to Law Amendments to speak to this and for members to have more opportunity to speak on it as we go through it.
It does need a little more I think. As I said, I'm not a one, two or three sort of fan. Once is enough, if you are - and maybe I have a bias because I've had those experiences, I don't know. We all like to socialize, as I've said, and perhaps some have had a beer in this
room and driven home, that's legal at this point of time and as the member has said, there have been a number of scientific tests done to show that metabolism is different in each and every one of us and we are all affected differently. Depending on the day, the work you've done, whether you have eaten or not eaten - all of these things come into play. Personally I would like to see this zero tolerance; perhaps that's not fair in the eyes of Nova Scotians. We'll soon see as we go through this process.
But it's important to remember, when we're going through and thinking about this bill and deliberating it, the people who have been affected in this province and outside this province. We have seen people who have come to this province as tourists, or visiting families from other provinces in the country, who have been killed in these kinds of accidents on the roads. We have to keep all of that in mind, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about special bills like this.
There are many examples of stories that I could talk about in this room, people would remember some of them. They may remember some of the people, although I won't mention the names of people who have lost their lives or have been affected. There are some people who are well known in this country, and in this province, who have held high positions, who have been drunk on our highways driving, involved in accidents and killed people. Again, these people are more than able to get a cab, take a limousine, for that matter, home. They have that kind of ability when it comes to wealth, but refuse to do so. We can't allow this to continue.
It doesn't matter what the bill is or what the law is, we know that every day laws are broken in this province and in this country. This bill will not stop drinking and driving, I think that is fair to say. Regardless, there will still be people who do it and we hear it all the time - you know what, alcoholism is an illness and I agree. That doesn't mean they have the right to get on the road and drive. There are other ways of treating illnesses, it's not getting behind the wheel. It's no different from any other illness.
Again, when we're deliberating this bill, I want us to remember the seriousness of it, the importance of it and those family members who have been affected and torn apart, who will never forget - like Margaret Miller, like Susan MacAskill, just to name two - and many, many others who I could name, but I won't in this House without their permission. There are a lot and it's a sin to say that there are a lot. I think the number mentioned by the minister was 22, on average, a year. There were some years that I worked on the street that felt like I was doing all 22 of those and I can tell you it seemed like the numbers were much higher.
I did hear some other statistics, Mr. Speaker, that you brought forward that seemed to maybe be a little higher than that even again over the years, the detailed analysis. I think it's important that we reflect on those numbers just to drive home to Nova Scotians and members of this House in going through this process that it does happen and it happens in high numbers - the potential - and those are only the ones that we know about. As has been
mentioned here, we know that there are many who get in their cars on any day or night of the week who have had a drink or two, or three, and drive home and have never had an incident, ever once, and may never have, and have never been stopped, but their time will come at some point. It will happen.
Like the member for Cumberland South, I would be very nervous to do that. Again, maybe it's the bias that I have, that he has, we know what happens when you do it or what can happen and does happen, not may, it does happen, and we see it. We still see it in the drinking and driving rates, the fines and the number of people still getting stopped and charged with these offences. It appeared for a time that that was going down but it very much seems to be on the rise and I know MADD Canada from talking to Susan, Margaret and others, at one point our Province of Nova Scotia, across the country there was a survey done and we were fairly high on the top of that list. A year or so ago we were like number 10 out of 11 or 11 out of 12, just whatever that was. We were very low. We had dropped significantly when it came to being a province that was high up there doing great things and seemed to be achieving what was needed to reduce the number of drinking and driving cases in the province and then all of a sudden we take a big drop. I'm not sure what really caused that drop, if it was just more cases of people who were getting caught that didn't in previous years so the statistics reflect that or what it was.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to take a few minutes to speak to this bill and in favour of this bill. I think it's a very good bill. I look forward to it being strengthened a bit, some more discussion on it, and to seeing those come in to speak at the Law Amendments Committee and to offer their input as well. I commend the minister for bringing this bill forward again early on in this Legislature in this sitting. Bill Nos. 1 and No. 2 have been great bills and we're pleased to see them move along. I know there are other speakers who want to chat about this bill this morning and probably in the days ahead. So with that, thank you very much for the opportunity to have a few words today.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.
HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, this indeed is a good bill. It's a bill that will increase penalties for impaired drivers and I think that's a very positive thing. Just before I really start talking about the bill very much I want to make an observation, one that alarms me very much. I live in a semi-rural area in Porters Lake and when I drive home at any time of the day or the evening, one thing I've noticed on the side of the road that I haven't seen in a long time is more and more beer cans and beer bottles, and occasionally you'll see an empty bottle of other types of alcohol, on the road too. I really give credit to some people in my community who regularly go around and collect these bottles to keep the mess down and make themself a dollar or two when they turn them in to the bottle exchange. I'm sure if those people weren't there, there would be a real big mess on the side of the roads.
If those are being thrown out the window, they're driving in the vehicles. Now, hopefully, it's not the driver drinking, hopefully it's the passenger, but I would say that probably sometimes it's the driver as well. So there seems to be an increase in this appearance of people driving vehicles and drinking. So that is a scary situation and the more you look at it, some very innocent person could be driving as this happens, there have been so many deaths already every year from drinking and driving, could be run into or run over if they're walking on the side of the road, or whatever the case may be, by one of these people who has been drinking in the vehicle, never mind drinking before they get in the vehicle. So that just appears to be on the increase.
If you look at the statistics that my honourable colleague, the member for Clare, had brought out earlier about the number of collisions in the province - in 2006 there were 507 collisions due to alcohol - 507, now that's a lot. How many other people were driving who didn't get in collisions but were drinking? I would say the number would be substantially larger than that, maybe even 10 times larger than that, and that's scary.
When you look at the statistics over the years, too, they always seem pretty steady. For a number of years they dropped, and now they are on an increase again this year and they have increased since 2004. So when you look at those stats, it seems that the younger generation or the older generation - it's not generational, alcohol and driving - seem to be driving more and more under the influence of alcohol, even though the laws have gotten stricter over the years and the penalties have become more severe, which I think is very, very positive, I think that this bill is a bill that is overdue and I'm pleased to hear in this Legislature that the members do support it.
I do feel, however, that it needs some amendments to it, and when the time comes we'll probably look at those. In the meantime, when you look at this and you talk about the fantastic work MADD has done in the community, I can remember many, many years ago when I was first elected, a lady came to me when her daughter had been killed by a drunk driver and I worked with her and her family and she became very, very involved in MADD. I'm very pleased that she did - but for the wrong reason, though, she shouldn't have had to do that because her daughter got killed.
You hear that story over and over again, and every time you hear that it's an accident that could have been prevented, should have been prevented, and should never have happened. So when you go through and you look at accidents, sheer accidents that could have been avoided, those are in a different category.
I'm pleased to see that one of the things that has happened - a friend of mine was caught drinking and driving a number of years ago, and he deserved to get caught, quite frankly, and one thing that he told me afterwards - and he hasn't been drinking and driving
ever since, so he did learn the lesson, and some people don't learn the lesson - one thing that hit him the hardest, which I think is very positive, is the insurance companies. I think his insurance went from $400 or $500 a year to over $3,000 a year, so I think that was very positive and that didn't go away in a year, so it really hits people in the pocketbook.
Until you make penalties and put things in place that people really understand - I remember years ago that every year when the deer hunting season would come, there would be several fatalities from people getting shot in the woods. Once the government decided they were going to put laws in place that if you shoot somebody in the woods you get criminal charges laid against you, lo and behold, the incidence of people getting shot by accident - supposedly accident, of course it wasn't an accident, it was carelessness - all of a sudden dropped off. People are more careful now, as they should be, and very careful with what they do in the woods and prevent it.
This is the same sort of thing. If you make the penalty strong enough, people will finally get the message. Make it easier for the enforcement people, who have already indicated here, are really overtaxed now with all the work they have to do and the things they have to do with the communities to ensure that they are safe places to live in. There are a lot of issues going on in our province, a lot of very serious issues, and one of them shouldn't be drinking and driving.
Also, the use of drugs when people are driving - I don't see any mention of this in here and it is something that I think that probably the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal should have a look at to see how many incidents of drug use are involved when you get accidents, and accidents happen and they're really difficult to check out on a roadside check, but there's got to be a problem with that, too, because there seems to be an ever-increasing problem with drugs in the province.
That has to be an issue that needs to be addressed. I know I've been on some pretty severe antibiotics in the past and I was told by the doctors not to drive, and after I took a couple of the pills I could understand why. You definitely were not in a situation to drive - never mind the people who are consuming illegal drugs. I think that is something that hopefully the government will look at in the future, and it would be something that I would personally support. I know it is a very complex issue, one that you would have to work with the Department of Health on probably, and some other departments, to ensure that it works.
You look at the stats. Again, my learned colleague for Clare and I talked about many of these incidents. If you look at statistics from 2001 they had a lot of fatalities from drinking and driving - 31, to be exact. It increased to 34 in 2002 and 39 in 2003. Luckily, in 2004, it dropped to 22; that was a positive move, but 22 is still too many. In 2005, it went to 26, on the rise again. In 2006, 29 again - that's an increase of seven over 2004. In 2007 it increased again to 32; 10 over 2004. We're going in the wrong direction with this.
I think this bill, if it's applied properly - and again, I stress, with some possible changes in it - I think it will help resolve some of this problem. I'm always pleased to see a roadside check or the RCMP, and I always make a point of telling them, I'm pleased that you stopped me and all the people behind me and ahead of me. Sometimes it's a nuisance in traffic when traffic's held up a little bit, but it's a whole lot to have traffic held up for a traffic check for safety inspection stickers or whatever they're checking for than to have someone drive through that traffic and ending up killing themselves and probably someone that's very innocent and had nothing to do with the fact that this individual was drinking.
I think over time, as a society, we've come to realize that drinking and driving isn't acceptable. Unfortunately, there are still some people who persist in doing that. I know my son, in particular, if he gets called by one of his friends who's downtown at the bars for the evening and he's home in bed - they call him at home, and he will get out of bed and drive all the way from the Dartmouth side over to Halifax, take people home way outside of where he's at and go back home to bed rather than see them drive. I give the young people that do that a lot of credit, because they can go out and have a good time and not have to worry about driving home and be driven home safely. Make sure they're home safely where they should be.
It's got to be a tremendous tragedy for someone that loses a family member to an alcohol-related accident, an accident that shouldn't have happened. If you look at the statistics of the fine young men and women in our military that are dying in Afghanistan, and you total up the numbers, which is a real tragedy, but those people are from all across the country in a very dangerous location. If you look at those numbers and you add them up here in Nova Scotia alone - just in Nova Scotia - the people killed in alcohol-related fatalities, and if you extrapolate the number across the province, there are probably more people being killed by alcohol-related accidents than there are by the people that are working in a very dangerous situation in Afghanistan.
This really has a far-reaching effect on the families. If you put yourself in danger, you expect that something could happen. But if you're just walking to school, taking your car to pick up something at the grocery store, and a drunk driver runs into you and kills you or someone in your vehicle, that is unexpected. It's so difficult for the family.
I believe this is a good bill. I believe there are many things that need to be probably tightened up on it a little bit to make it better and really put an issue in place. I think the charge of $89 is probably very light, and as you go through the process, you have to make people accountable. You have to hit them where it hurts - you have to hit them in the pocketbook and take their driver's licence away. Most people I've seen in the past that have their driver's licence taken away usually drive anyway. What are the consequences if they drive? It doesn't state this here.
Does it mean, that's fine, you drive in the seven days if it's a first offence and suspension within 10 years? So, what do you do? There's no talk about this in this bill. I think that's a very important topic. I remember years ago in Prince Edward Island, there was one guy that got caught for drinking and driving so many times and he always got his car back the next day and he was driving again. Had no driver's licence. I don't know what they finally did to eliminate this - they should have taken his car and crushed it or something so he couldn't use it again. But he always paid someone to go get the car back and sometimes he'd be driving it again the same day, again, sometimes. So what to do about this, so you suspend the licence for seven days and then how do you enforce that, number one, and then if you do enforce it, what are the consequences? Does it mean to suspend it again or is that fine - your seven days are up then and you start driving anyway? That has to be addressed in this bill, I think, and it isn't and I think the penalties for that should be very severe. Because chances are that the person gets caught again, they'll probably be driving again, probably under the influence but it's those sort of things we really have to look at in this bill to see what can be done.
There are so many issues, the tragedies are so deep in families. It leaves a scar on the family of someone who is critically injured and maybe in a wheelchair the rest of their life or bedridden the rest of their life because somebody was drinking and driving, something they had absolutely no control over, no advanced warning that anything could happen. Just imagine the stress that puts on a family.
I want to give MADD credit for the fine work they've done; they have done exceptional work. I have been on some of the road checks that they've done handing out ribbons and talking to people and it really does help, the work they do. You really have to talk to somebody that's been personally affected by this to understand what they're going through. People can still enjoy a drink but stay home, stay at a friend's place, do not get behind the wheel of a car. It's too dangerous, it's not worth the risk and indeed, eventually, if you do that persistently, you'll either kill yourself and/or someone else or cause very serious accidents and we just can't afford that in the province.
In 2006, there were 318 injuries because of alcohol. Now we talk about the Dartmouth General Hospital's emergency room backlog, the Code Orange - I don't know what the other name they call it but it's really a Code Orange they call it now, they've changed it recently since the government changed but it's a Code Orange - but 318 people who are now occupying hospital beds, occupying emergency, taking emergency vehicles away, ambulances and other things, that's 100 per cent preventable. If those numbers were removed, that would mean that some of the emergency rooms would be cleared up for people that really need to go there. There wouldn't be that tragedy in the families, that stress you have that maybe someone is in there that's really on the edge of not making it, tying up intensive care unit or whatever the case may be, or it may simply be that you go in the emergency room and get stitches and X-rays but that still takes time. It takes time away from somebody who might have fallen and hurt themselves or whatever else that may happen and
indeed may make a difference in the other person's outcome if the emergency rooms are stressed so heavily.
I want to give the staff in the emergency rooms a lot of credit. I can tell you from personal experience, when you do go in there they're very professional, they know their job and they're great to deal with and I can't say enough good about the people in the emergency and our health care system. Unfortunately, as a family we've been involved in that more than we'd like to see and I know almost everybody in this room can probably say the same thing. They do an excellent job, they're very professional and in more than one case it's actually saved a life in my family so I appreciate the work that they do. So if we could take some of the stress away from them with this drinking and driving, that would indeed help us as well. It helps everybody, it helps everybody in our province and these cost a lot of money.
These injuries cost a lot of money to the health care system, to the taxpayers, so if you have a friend that drinks and drives and causes an accident, you're paying the bill, you're paying the health care bill for this and you've got to keep that in mind. You wonder why your taxes are so high, these things have to be paid for and the taxes come from you and I and all of us in the province. So if a buddy of yours is drinking and driving and you think it's a big joke, it's not a big joke. Not only will he hurt himself or somebody else, maybe you even if you're a passenger with them and crazy enough to get in the vehicle with them when they're drinking and driving, but also hits you in the pocket book long-term, because it puts your health care costs up. All of this combines to cause a great deal of stress on our system.
I'd rather see in the health care system doing things like saving people with heart conditions and all these things and improving our healthcare system and relieving the stress on the health care workers, which is very substantial in our province, instead of having to deal with accidents that could be preventable.
It also says here in the statistics - and these are Department of Transportation and Public Works statistics - that there were 507 collisions due to alcohol. Now those are the ones reported, those are the 507 that are reported. What about the ones that at the time they were minor incidents and the police weren't called, not recorded as alcohol involved and, indeed, there are more accidents and more people who suffered property damage? That's a real situation today too.
A lot of people today, when they get in a car accident, don't want to get insurance companies involved because of the high rate of insurance that people have if they get in an accident and probably some of these are never reported. So I would bet that your 507 number could probably be doubled or even quadrupled over the year, if you really knew the numbers and looked at this, so this is a serious situation.
Then it goes on to talk about the number of property damages due to alcohol and it was 275 incidents, again in 2006. Now again, how many of those - those are the ones reported, that the RCMP or the local police departments would have been involved in and made out an accident report, but what about all the ones that weren't? I can remember many times that we've had some traffic issues in the area and I contacted the RCMP in this particular area and said, how many accidents did we have there, and they come up with a statistic. Well, I said, it can't be right because when I talk to the community and have personally seen some accidents, I know, on this date - were there any accidents reported on this date and no, there weren't. One intersection I can remember, in one 24-hour period I actually saw four accidents and only one had been reported, only one was on the record. So a lot of these accidents don't get reported.
How many more of these collisions and damages and stuff are never reported? I would say it's a lot of them, a large number of them. Again, more property damage, more injuries to people and sometimes life-threatening injuries or permanent disability injuries where people who have never, ever had a reason to have that happen to them, just because somebody was crazy enough to drink and drive.
I think this bill is a good start in that direction. I do stress that I think it really needs some amendments to it to make it really work but again, that's something we'll talk about another day. As we go forward, it's a pleasure to support the bill. Any step forward we can get in this regard is going to be positive, it's going to mean that hopefully we can save one injury or one death. Again, as already stated here, we may never know how many actually were saved but I'm positive it will save some. Eventually someone will see the daylight and understand, indeed, I had better not drink, I better not have this drink and just go to my neighbour's place across the road, or wherever I put my car. I had better walk or I stay home.
I think our society is ready for that now. When you talk to people, most people don't drink and drive but the people who do seem to be habitual offenders and really need to do some soul-searching on this. I don't know what it would feel like, and I never want to find out what it feels like if you happen to be driving and kill someone. I don't know if I could personally live with that. Now it could happen in an accident, something could happen, your vehicle could break or something could happen. But it would be really difficult to live with for the rest of your life and go on through life and the stress it would put on your system. People don't think about this when they have a drink and then drive, they just don't. If they did, they wouldn't be driving.
In HRM now the traffic is getting so bad, there's so much traffic now, that one time you could drive and you wouldn't see a car for 10 minutes and now in 10 seconds you're going to see a car. More and more traffic and as you get more traffic and if people are drinking, more and more are likely to have an accident. So your odds are getting worse and worse as to having an accident.
Anything that changes the flow of traffic now just cripples it. I saw yesterday, for example, that somebody on the bridge ran out of gas so they had a backlog on the bridge. I give the commissionaires a lot of credit, they have a gas can there and they give the person just enough gas to get to the gas station on the other side of the toll gate. In doing that, that person held up all the traffic, then they had to go left at the turn, held it up again, so backlogged the traffic. If something that simple causes a serious accident, insert somebody who has had a few drinks into the system and perhaps runs somebody over or maybe they run into another car. It could be anything.
The traffic is getting so bad. It's not a bad thing that we're getting a lot of traffic, it shows that the HRM is growing. It's not good for the rest of the province because unfortunately people are moving in from the outside areas and leaving their beautiful countryside because they need to get here for employment. We love to have them come, and it's wonderful to see people come into the HRM, but I feel really bad about the rural areas. They're so beautiful in this province and the population is declining in areas that would be a wonderful place to live, but if you can't get a job and look after your family, it's pretty tough to stay in those gorgeous areas. As the population grows here, and it gets busier and busier, insert someone who is drinking and, as I said earlier, I see more and more beer cans and beer bottles along the side of the road, it appears that there is more and more drinking going on while driving, never mind before getting into the vehicle.
As that continues and you put all these things together, you have a concoction for some pretty dangerous situations. Fortunately you don't see it, or it's not obvious that you very often see someone driving under the influence, you can see it in traffic, erratic driving or whatever the case may be, but I'm sure a lot of the time when you're travelling there are people who have been drinking and you just don't notice it. Hopefully those people will finally realize this is not the thing to do and stay off the road.
So I think the bill is a good step forward. I believe it needs some further amendments to it that would make it work more effectively. I'm concerned, too, about the enforcement issue that has already been raised here. Our police are really overtaxed at the present time and need to have some assistance with this. So hopefully the government will put some more resources into policing in the province for this sort of thing.
If you can take one drunk driver off the road who can cause an accident, it's going to have a long ripple effect. Probably if you take one or two of these off the road, with an additional police officer, they will probably pay for their salary for that year and the next year and all of the expenses that go along with that, never mind the benefits to people not getting injured who would have got injured and all the stress in the families that goes with that.
With those few words, I say that we will be supporting the bill - or I will be - but I would like to see some amendments. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.
HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today and speak a few moments on Bill No. 2. I need to echo the comments of the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. Those who decide to drink and drive are stupid. It's a stupid move, it's incredibly stupid, and stupid is a word that I rarely use as well. I have more in common with the Minster of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal than I thought I did. But stupid is not a word that we use around our house. Stupid is not it. But in this case, it seems to fit.
I know there is another word that my grandfather, my Grampy Tupper would probably use as well and I don't think it's parliamentary so I'm not going to use it. I'll share it with the minister afterwards.
Mr. Speaker, I want to start off by saying that we can all stand here and talk about having the one or two beer, the one or two glasses of wine, or one or two drinks. I can say that probably everybody in this House, at one time or another, has made that bad decision. We're not all holy. We're human. You can use the excuse that over a long period of time, I started to drink at six o'clock, it's 12:00 midnight, or whatever - I had three drinks, I can drive, don't worry about it. Or you can use the excuse, well, I'm a big guy, I can drink more than another person. I can drive, don't worry about it. I can tell you that many of us, including myself, have maybe used that on a number of occasions.
Mr. Speaker, I can say that it's also only illegal if you're caught. It's a hard one to understand as well. How many people do we meet on the road - and all of us are in this as well - how many times do we drive down the road and wonder if that car that went by, or that car that came in front of you, you know, were they drinking or not?
I can tell you, especially for the times like today, I'll drive home; you know, I'm spending three hours on the road. I'm going to meet - I don't know, how many cars do I meet in a three-hour drive? There's probably a percentage of the people that I meet who probably have a couple of drinks in them, or been down to the local bar, local club - you know, it's not very far, I'm just going to drive home, sort of pop in. I can tell you that I know - maybe I've gotten used to it now - it's always in the back of your head that somebody is going to make a bad decision along the way. It only takes that one little bad decision and you're going to change someone's life, or you're going to change your life.
There's a tremendous cost to this one little bad decision. We can talk about the dollars and cents of it and we can talk about the personal toll. If somebody is hurt and can no longer work and provide for their family, that's one thing, and God forbid that someone dies. I want to come back a little bit to some of those things, but I'm going to use the example of a friend of mine who lives in Amiraults Hill - or Sluice Point, I can't remember where the line is. Her name is Brenda d'Entremont-Adams. Now, Brenda is - I'm going to
say she's my age, because if I said she was older I would pay for that at some point along the way - but Brenda was a young secretary or administrative assistant in Ottawa. I think she was working for the Senate of Canada at the time, I can't quite remember, she was working for either a senator or an MP at the time, and I apologize for not remembering exactly who she was working for.
Either one day when she was going to work or coming home from work, she was crossing a crosswalk on her way to work. There she is, in her twenties, getting hit by a drunk driver. It didn't kill her, but it definitely changed the path in life that maybe she had chosen for herself. Brenda is now in a wheelchair and has been in a wheelchair since that day, and is a tremendous advocate for MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I can tell you, there doesn't go a conversation - any time that I meet Brenda or that I get a phone call or that she contacts me on Facebook, that she doesn't talk about this bill that's before us and the changes that we need to see to the Motor Vehicle Act, to change the penalties for people who have only had a couple of drinks, the .05s.
Mr. Speaker, Brenda is wonderful, you know, she's full of life. She takes on projects with gusto, and I was very pleased to stand with her on a couple of occasions at MADD rallies. We were able to plant a tree for those lives that had been impacted by drunk drivers, in Beacon Park in Yarmouth. We had the opportunity to speak at a rally that she organized at the Yarmouth Mall, and that's where I actually got to meet Susan MacAskill. I spoke with her for a little bit. I know over the last number of years I've spent in this House that I got to meet Margaret Miller as well - all phenomenal people whose lives have been directly touched by someone's stupid decision.
The member for Cumberland South said it very well. There's no shame in picking up the phone and calling someone to drive you home. If you had a couple of drinks, there's nothing wrong with having a couple of drinks. Maybe, as MLAs, as we're here, maybe we've had one too many drinks sometimes, but I think we all make that decision that we're walking home, find someone, grab a cab, take a bus, make transit work for us, whatever it may be. But we're not going to say it hasn't happened in the past.
Speaking of Brenda and how impressed I am with Brenda and the work she does, I've also seen it from the other side a little bit too. I had a couple of acquaintances, actually I had a cousin and somebody else that I worked with on a couple of occasions who made that stupid decision, had a few drinks, got in a car to go home. In one case, they caused an accident and, God forbid, nobody was killed, nobody was hurt - of course, losing that licence for the year, someone who simply lost their licence for a year. In two very different situations, in the case of my cousin, here he was, I forget how old he was, he's the same age as I am, he probably would have been 23, 24 and made that bad decision and ended up putting his IROC-Z, I think at that time, in the ditch. Luckily no one was killed; how no one
was killed was beyond me. He was passing cars, going so fast he blew the tires out of his car and ended up upside down in the ditch. I think there were four people in the car at the time. Luckily no one was killed.
But I can see that was sort of a turning point in his life. He had to spend a year bumming rides, the embarrassment of that. He had to pay off his fine. He had to pay off the loan for the vehicle because he was convicted of drunk driving, the insurance was then void. So from a guy that had gone off to university, made a little bit of money, bought himself a nice car, all of a sudden his life was in shambles. I can tell even to this day that that was a turning point in his life.
The other example that I have is of a friend of mine from our community. I won't use the names because I think it was embarrassing enough for them to have been in the situation to begin with. I can tell you that this professional who had made the stupid decision to have a few drinks, get in the car and drive home, all of a sudden had to try to run a business without a driver's licence, a business that actually required you to be in different places to meet with different people throughout that year. I can say that on a lot of occasions he had to call friends, had to call family: Would you mind driving me to Halifax, I've got a meeting there? Would you mind driving me to Yarmouth, I have to go in and pay a bill or two? Absolutely embarrassing. Luckily he didn't hurt anybody. But, like I said there are two sides to some of this as well.
We have to have a heavier hand. That's why I like what I see before me in this bill. I see changes, not only do we make a suspension for 24 hours at .05, which I think was a good start and I'm glad our government did that when we had the chance - fortunately, I think somebody got caught with that not so long after - I can say that the hammer has to get a little heavier. Maybe the little hammer has to turn into a rubber mallet, a nice big one, whack people upside the head. I think as more people are dinged with this, then more and more people will be aware and therefore not make the stupid decision.
Mr. Speaker, I can say the people I meet in MADD Canada have a stake in it that I don't think any of us can understand when it comes to a law like this. I don't know many times you sit and you try to figure out how do you take an idea and turn it into a piece of legislation like this, but they're right - when the first .05 law came into place, MADD was right; when the interlock program was pushed for and brought in, they were right; and today what we see before us, the addition and the stiffer penalties, they're right.
I would urge the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, the Minister of Justice, and all members of government on this side of the House and on that side of the House, to make sure they have a good relationship with the people from MADD because there are so many people touched by stupid decisions of not just - you know, we can't call them drunk drivers, they are people who made bad decisions and don't understand the impairment of just a few drinks.
I think maybe the member for Cumberland South spoke about being a Breathalyzer technician, or whatever he called them, and he had the opportunity during that training as a police officer and as a technician to actually, in a controlled environment, really see the impact of drunk driving. I'm going to guess - and I'm going to have to ask him, and if I'm wrong I apologize - I think that as part of that training program they actually drink themselves and, in that controlled environment, try to drive a car to truly understand it.
If you remember, I think it is the Brewers Association of Canada that have a commercial out and they are sort of weaving through traffic and the beer cup goes in front and you see how it impairs your vision just looking through one cup. Well, they put two or three in front of you, and I think that's a good representation of how our judgment is impaired by just a few drinks.
We can only use our experiences as adults and people who have probably had a couple of drinks to know how uninhibited maybe we get with our conversations sometimes, or how boastful we may become or, Mr. Speaker, how quiet we may even become, depending on what kind of a drinker or how we react to alcohol, and that's after only a few drinks.
Mr. Speaker, as we increase penalties for impaired drivers - and I want to bring it out, the 24-hour suspension, which is what was brought in originally, is now being changed to seven days in the case of a first suspension within the last 10 years. So let's remember this - for 10 years, you did it once within 10 years, if you do it again, then 15 days in the case of a second suspension within the last 10 years, and 30 days in the case of a third and subsequent suspension within the last 10 years.
Maybe this will stop some of those cases where - and I know when the Liberal member spoke, he talked about people getting back in their cars and driving away, I think it was the P.E.I. case that he spoke to. We have to get a better idea on the other side of things - we may have to crush a car or do something, I don't know. But we do know of people within our communities. I know I see a lot of people who are metro and a few people who are rural, but I know in a rural area sort of this unseen thing where people are in a suspension but they sometimes get in a car and drive to work, or their court order actually allows them to drive for work.
If you are a truck driver or a delivery person and your livelihood depends on it, I think sometimes the court is lenient in that case. They give you - between certain hours you're allowed to drive your car or drive your truck or whatever it is in order to provide for your family, but you can't go beyond that.
In theory that probably makes a lot of sense, but in practice I don't think it does because bars are open during the day, liquor stores are open during the day and if that person truly has a problem, not just has made a stupid decision but truly has a problem, they will
offend again. They will grab that drink and they'll be driving that car once again, spinning the roulette wheel, you know, are we going to hurt someone today or are we not?
Mr. Speaker, again, to what we're seeing in the bill, further amended, "provide the person with a written statement of the time at which the suspension takes effect and acknowledging receipt of the person's driver's license that is surrendered and provide the person with such other information as prescribed by the Registrar; advise the Registrar. . ."
Under Clause 7, "(10A) The Registrar shall record every suspension under this Section on the operating record of the person whose license is suspended. (10B) The peace officer who requested the surrender of a license under this Section shall (a) issue a notice of suspension to the driver in accordance with subsection (4); and (b) seize and dispose of the license as directed by the Registrar. (10C) At the end of the suspension period, a person may apply in the form and manner prescribed by the Registrar for reinstatement of the person's license upon payment of the reinstatement fee prescribed by the regulations." So even though we're not really talking about a fine within this legislation, there is a cost to having to go get that licence back.
The member for Cumberland South spoke of our youth and of course he picked on our Pages just a little bit but, you know, a lot of times we have to do a better job of - whether it's in the schools - teaching our children the perils. These are perils and a lot of these things are common sense but, you know, you always see where bad common sense comes in and sometimes bad common sense is really lack of information, lack of knowledge, lack of some very basic things.
I can say that during my time as a student, whether it was elementary or high school, there was always a tremendous impact from people who came and spoke of experiences. Whether it was the RCMP - I remember there was sort of a drug seminar, or whatever you want to call it, that would come to the schools and acquaint you with what some of these things are because I think as a child you hear this talk of drugs but you don't understand what it means, and I think by the RCMP bringing in that kind of paraphernalia, you understood, you saw. To have somebody come in and speak of their experience as a reformed drug addict, an alcoholic, or what have you, has tremendous impact on a child, on a young adult, to see where a stupid decision snowballs into something completely different.
The member for Cumberland South spoke of the impacts - and I said I'd come back to this one - not only the impacts of family, whether it's a loved one or what have you. The numbers that we have for the MADD Canada sponsored study are absolutely staggering and this was an eight-year period between 1999 and 2006. There were 1,010 fatal crashes; 391,123 injury only crashes, or 1,244,079 property damage only crashes; totalling 1.6 million crashes in all; but the actual cost to society, or cost to the economy, is phenomenal as well. The cost in Canada is between- depending on the models they use - $15.5 billion and $90.2 billion. To put it another way, it represents a cost of about $469 and $2,726 per Canadian.
These are bad decisions, they're stupid decisions, and we need to do more to make sure it doesn't happen.
I can hope, with close consultation with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and the Department of Justice, to make sure that there are more stops, there are more roadblocks and those kinds of things, to make sure that we catch these people who have made that decision. It's too late once you do it. You need to be aware of this ahead of time and I hope that the public education will go with this as well.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal for bringing this forward. This is an initiative that this caucus supports and one that we were very happy to have presented as well during our time in government, that, of course, didn't see a conclusion. So I thank the minister for bringing this forward once again and I thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.
MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly echo the comments of some of the previous speakers in thanking the minister for bringing forward this bill. I guess I would refer to this bill as a good start and before it comes to a final vote in this House I hope there will be some amendments that would, in fact, strengthen the bill because I don't think it goes nearly far enough at this point.
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to start - I know the minister talked about MADD, and there were some visitors here when the bill was introduced from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and certainly I know that they support this and, in fact, when you look at their research on it, they support going with a stronger bill as well and they've indicated that. Indeed, in a May 2009 study that they released, which was just a few months ago, they pointed out that this sort of thing should also come with a strengthened mandatory remedial-education program for any infraction and as well there should be a mandatory use of the interlock device following the suspension, not in the middle of the suspension now that you can apply for.
I know that the Leader of the Official Opposition spoke to that a bit earlier where if you look at the Province of Nova Scotia guidelines on the interlock device, it's disappointing in many respects, that while the tool is good, in fact, it does almost act as a "get out of jail free" card for those who can afford to do that when, in fact, it would be better, in my view, to have the suspension. I believe it's three years for a second infraction, and then a required interlock device following the three-year suspension of a licence. If you know that you can just pay $1,700 to $2,000 and get the interlock device installed, I'm not sure that ends up with the deterrent that we may necessarily want.
It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, to look at this and see, in fact, what the costs are of impaired driving in Canada. In a 2006 impaired driving cost estimate study, and I'll table this, I just want to read this paragraph for the House, "Over the eight-year period between 1999 and 2006, it is estimated that impaired driving killed 9,698 persons, injured 572,187 . . ." To put that into context, that's more than half of the population of Nova Scotia. " . . . and caused damage to 1,891,079 vehicles . . . translating into 1,010 fatal crashes, 391,123 injury-only crashes and 1,244.079 property-damage only crashes."
The estimate is, in fact, between those years of 1999 and 2006. Damage and the cost to Canadians from impaired driving is actually between $15.5 billion and $90.2 billion. So if you put that in another way, that represents a cost of between $469 and $2,700 for each Canadian as the cost of impaired driving.
Mr. Speaker, that is a huge cost. I know yesterday during estimates, the Minister of Justice spoke about the economic lens for policing and justice and certainly I think that on the impaired driving case that puts the economic lens into quite a good context when we see that over a seven-year period there was up to a $90 billion cost to Canadians. It is something we have to address. You know there are a lot of reasons, I'm sure, why people get behind the wheel after having a drink and we certainly can't go into every one of those reasons but it does happen and it happens with all too great a frequency in Nova Scotia and elsewhere.
I think that we not only need to get at the root of why these things are happening but the penalties must be in place and be enforceable.; that is going to be one of the challenges. Much like Bill No. 1, Bill No. 2 creates a situation where we need to be able to have the enforceability of this in order to make it happen. You can drive a lot of highways and a lot of roads in Nova Scotia for quite some time and never see a patrol officer. So you wonder how many infractions actually happen that don't get picked up on. That's a problem, Mr. Speaker, because if people think they can get away with it, then of course they will do that.
Now that being said, I would reflect that my own view is that impaired driving is much less acceptable today by the general public than it was even 10 years ago. I can certainly remember being in high school which, in all honesty, wasn't that long ago, and it really wasn't seen as that big a deal, it really wasn't. I graduated in 1992 at Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth and at that time it happened and although it was known that it was wrong, it was all too frequent. It seemed that weekly you read about crashes and the police officer would say well, we believe that drinking or impaired driving was a factor in this crash.
We still see that but I think we don't see it as much. The Insurance Bureau of Canada with their Operation Red Nose Program and certainly Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Students Against Drunk Driving and many other organizations have put such pressure on this issue, and rightly so, that it is seen - and it is widely seen not only in Canada but around the world - as a major issue and I think there has been a lot of success on it but we shouldn't rest on our laurels and that's why making this stronger certainly makes a lot of sense.
The penalties, in my view, for impaired driving have to be sufficient that they are not only a deterrent but that people feel there's a very high likelihood that they will be caught. There is still a need for a cultural shift.
I was at an event last night, Mr. Speaker, it was a very good event and while I didn't partake in the beverages that were available, certainly a lot of people did and a lot of people went out and had their cars there and I hope that those who did had somebody who wasn't drinking behind the wheel. The fact of the matter is, you didn't see it as publicized as it should have been that there were other options to get home. So we haven't quite made it to that point in society where it is standard that you go to a reception or a big event where alcohol is going to be served and at the door are people reminding people, listen, don't drive home, here's a taxi chit or whatever the case may be, there are a lot of options.
Mr. Speaker, I think we really need to - it's a culture shift. We're not going to be able to legislate that and I'm not going to suggest to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal or the Minister of Justice, for that matter, that they single-handedly will be able to solve that problem through a piece of legislation because they can't. But that has to be part of this and, in fact, the National Director of Legal Policy for Mothers Against Drunk Driving who also the professor of law at the University of Western Ontario, points out that they very much support laws likes this, however, rigorous enforcement and publicity are needed to reduce deaths. So this, I have no doubt that this bill will make its way through the House and it will pass. I'm very hopeful that it will actually come with a number of amendments, which I want to get into in a few minutes, but more important than that I hope that the minister will be able to bring forward to the House a plan of how they intend to publicize this and how they intend to really push this in the corporate community and the private sector community, among young people.
I remember being young enough to think that I was invincible and I'm sure everybody in this House has been there. That's just a part of growing up. It doesn't matter what the issue is that you feel that way. It's like a kid climbing a tree. You know, climbing a tree and getting into the tree house and they fall out of the tree and they break their arm because at that age you think you're invincible and you get older, then you look at the tree and the tree that looked really short as a kid is suddenly really tall. I think it's the same with impaired driving some times.
You know, 84 per cent of Canadians in the most recent study have suggested that the .05 per cent should be a minimum, in fact it probably should be lower. There are a number of countries in the world that have limits of zero now. There are even more countries that have national legal limits between .01 and .04. We find ourselves with penalties at .05 but our major penalties of course kick in at .08.
Mr. Speaker, I'll just make a couple of comments, because I see the indication that you want to adjourn debate in a second. I will do that and I see the people just itching to get
home to their constituencies. So, let me leave my comments for today then - and I guess I will come back on the next day this comes forward - in just saying that in 2006 in Canada, there were 3,122 people killed in a motor vehicle accident and at least a third of those were killed because they were involved in an impaired driving accident. That number has to go to zero. It has to go to zero and it is possible and it is very possible to get it close to zero.
Mr. Speaker, I will adjourn debate for today and if the House agree and continue my remarks on a future day.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Speaker, there has been a motion to adjourn debate.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, that concludes the government's business for today. I ask that the House now rise to meet again on Monday between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. and after the daily routine, I'll ask the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply and if time permits, we will call Public Bills for Second Reading, Bill Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15 and 16. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I ask that we now adjourn.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a motion to adjourn.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.
[The House rose at 11:59 a.m.]
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)
RESOLUTION NO. 644
By: Hon. Stephen McNeil (Leader of the Official Opposition)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas for more than 100 years rural families have benefited from one woman's reaction to a family tragedy when Adelaide Hoodless from Stoney Creek, Ontario, determined to educate women on the dangers of drinking unpasteurized milk, organized farm women in her community, and as such the Women's Institute evolved; and
Whereas 35 years ago women in the Spa Springs community formed an organization under the Women's Institute and since that time have worked tirelessly to support local groups; and
Whereas members of this group still managed to find the time to build friendships while creating memories, sharing good fortunes, and mourning the loss of loved ones;
Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly join me in recognizing the contributions made by the Spa Springs Women's Institute and thanking them for 35 years of service to their community.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.