Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Image credit: The Canadian Press.

Ottawa seeks to alter blood/alcohol levels

Justice minister says change would ‘make it easier to fight the danger’ posed by drunk drivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilson-Raybould responded to the reaction to her letter through a spokesperson on Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sergakis said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not being consistent in his approach.

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

Melanie Marquis and Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Community lends a hand after fire

Fundraiser to aid fire victim’s widow

Penticton bookkeeper nets 90 days for $60k embezzlement

Judith Kendrick pleaded guilty to fraud late last year, and was up for sentencing Tuesday morning

Video: Physicians salute Penticton philanthropist

Physicians say philanthropist, David Kampe, “single-handedly” changed patient care quality

Dine Around Thompson Okanagan set to kick off

Popular event kicks off in Kelowna with a sold out launch party

Freezing rain warning in effect for B.C. Southern Interior

Environment Canada issued the freezing rain warning for most of the Southern Interior Tuesday morning

Penticton youth centre finally gets home, sweet home

Youth centre organizers can start renovating 501 Main Street after getting the keys to the building

Body discovered in burnt out car near Trail

Police report a body was found in the burnt out trunk of a 1999 Honda Civic

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

Letter: Amazed by Okanagan Falls volunteer first responders

We would like to publicly thank these brave men and women who give so selflessly of their time

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

UPDATE: Friends mourn boy, 15, killed in Vancouver shooting

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Most Read