EDITORIAL: Timing of MacKay’s drunk driving bill questioned

Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced a bill in the House of Commons this week that would, among other things, command tougher penalties for drunk drivers who kill people, including a mandatory minimum sentence of six years in prison.

The current minimum sentence is a $1,000 fine.

Almost immediately, the cynics were calling out the timing of MacKay’s Dangerous and Impaired Driving Act, insisting that this is nothing more than an election PR move by the Progressive Conservatives.

That’s hard to argue, considering the government’s summer break is scheduled to begin next week, and by the time it reconvenes, in September, the election will be less than four weeks away.

There is zero chance of this bill being passed prior to the election, and the Tories will promise to prioritize this bill – this bill that THEY introduced – should they be re-elected.

That said, in this instance, timing doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it is time for Canada to get tough on drunk driving. Not “tougher.” Just tough.

A $1,000 minimum fine and no jail time for killing someone while committing a crime is ludicrous. And while the sentences for drunk driving causing death need to be increased, so too do the sentences for basic impaired driving.

Sadly, our justice system is so lean on drunk drivers, the consequences for their actions do not outweigh their actions. Far too many people still refuse alternate transportation after an evening of drinking, because heaven forbid they should have to leave their car somewhere overnight.

And as long as they don’t kill anyone on their way home, what’s the worst that can happen?

Our government’s laws have no teeth when it comes to drunk driving.

The bill introduced by MacKay goes a long way to changing that – not only for drunk driving causing death, but also for the basic act of impaired driving, as well as mandatory jail time (minimum 30 days) for drunk driving causing bodily harm (but not death).

Yes, the timing is poor, and no, it won’t become law soon enough to prevent the next killing of an innocent victim at the hands of a drunk driver. But it is progress.

 

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