Alberta’s DWI policy downright shameful
By David Menzies for MSN Autos
Alberta’s new impaired driving legislation kicked in like a double-shot of Sambuca earlier this month. Namely, a driver caught with a blood-alcohol content above.08 will now instantly have his licence suspended for an indefinite period of time. And the licence will remain suspended for the entire length of court process. On top of beefed-up administrative penalties under the Criminal Code, drivers who blow above .08 will have their car seized for at least three days. First-time convictions now net a mandatory ignition interlock device.
I don’t really have too much of a problem with these new penalties. After all, .08 is the legal limit. If you want to drive, then don’t drink to excess.
Here’s what I do have a problem with: there are new administrative penalties coming into effect on September 1. That’s when Alberta police plan to nab drivers with a blood-alcohol content of just .05 by hitting them with an indefinite licence suspension – the first of its kind in Canada.
Not only is .05 unreasonable, the upcoming law is undemocratic and perhaps even unconstitutional.
What makes the new Alberta law egregious is that it will punish drivers nabbed with blood-alcohol levels that aren’t even illegal!
Thus, if a motorist is asked to blow into a roadside breathalyzer in Alberta come September and he or she registers between 0.05 and 0.08 (the federal criminal limit), that motorist will be subject to an automatic three-day licence suspension and three-day vehicle impoundment on the spot. That’s without a trial – or even a chance to call a lawyer.
Civil liberty violations aside, here’s the really nauseating part: this new law is going to cost millions in terms of police resources while punishing perhaps tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens – all the while achieving little (if any) reduction in alcohol-related driving fatalities.
Transport Canada data shows drivers 20 and older cause very few fatal accidents before their blood-alcohol reaches .09. (This was the original reason why .08 was chosen as the legal limit in the first place.)
So why would Alberta set up roadblocks to throw the book at lawful citizens who have had a couple of beers (and blowing under .08) instead of going after those habitual drunk drivers who are truly menaces.
It gets worse... how is it that on one hand, Alberta is fashioning itself as the Nanny State Supreme on the booze file, yet on the other hand, it is being an enabler due to the fact that the province is subsidizing the production of cheap, foreign-made beer?
Case in point: as previously reported, one of the biggest beneficiaries of Alberta’s small brewer tax break policy is Minhas Craft Brewery. Although Minhas has its head office in Calgary, the brewing operation is actually in Monroe, Wisconsin. Due to a reduction in beer tax, Minhas is actually being subsidized by the government to the tune of about $6 million annually.
Why? Co-owner Ravinder Minhas says Albertan taxpayers do benefit from his U.S. brewery being propped up because – and I’m not making this up – Albertans are now able to buy bargain basement beer thanks to Minhas. Thus, even though almost all of the brewery jobs are in Wisconsin, apparently an unemployed Albertan can drink away his sorrows by having access to cheap sud such as Boxer Light and Mountain Crest. What astonishing logic!
Bottom line: the Alberta government is trying to suck and blow simultaneously. On one hand it subsidizes a brewery with taxpayer dollars to employ Americans to manufacture cheap plonk. Then, this very same government is enforcing draconian legislation that is only going to penalize responsible motorists who consume just one after-dinner drink.
Why is this even being tolerated?