LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Monday 28 May 2007 Lundi 28 mai 2007
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
SAFER ROADS FOR
A SAFER ONTARIO ACT, 2007
LOI DE 2007 VISANT Ã CRÉER
DES ROUTES PLUS SÉCURITAIRES
POUR UN ONTARIO PLUS SÃR
Resuming the debate adjourned on May 14, 2007, on the motion for third reading of Bill 203, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act and the Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other ActsÂ / Projet de loi 203, Loi modifiant le Code de la route et la Loi de 2001 sur les recours pour crime organisé et autres activités illégales et apportant des modifications corrélatives Ã d'autres lois.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Michael Prue): It's my understanding of the last time this was before the House that the debater still had some time left, but in her absence we will call for further debate.
The member from Trinity–Spadina.
Mr. Rosario Marchese (Trinity—Spadina): Thank you, member from Brant, a former colleague. We were both teachers. I think that's why he's clapping; he's clapping for the teaching profession.
I am happy to say a few words with respect to Bill 203, Safer Roads for a Safer Ontario Act, and I know that my colleague from Hamilton East wants to say a few words as well.
I want to start by reminding folks about some statistical information that I think people will find useful. This information comes from my colleague from Toronto—Danforth, who made a speech in this place a while ago -- not too long ago. He said, "In 2001, there were almost 2,000 deaths in Canada from motor vehicle collisions. There were 24,400 hospital-related admissions that resulted from traffic collisions. Many of the victims are young. Traffic collisions are a leading cause of premature death and disability in this country. That's a big impact: thousands of people in hospitals and thousands dead from an activity and a mode of transportation that we rely on." He added, "Vehicle occupants account for approximately three quarters of all road users killed and seriously injured during the year." Then he gives another statistic which I found very interesting: "In this study that was released in 2004, the health care costs, property losses and other factors were put together, and I assume there was an accounting model that looked at the annual cost in Canada from collisions on highways. It put the cost in the range of $25 billion for the country as a whole."
That I found an extraordinary figure: $25 billion for Canada as a whole. And in Ontario it was estimated to be around $9 billion. Collision-related accidents account for about $3 billion was the figure that he gave. I found that astounding too in terms of the implications of bad driving, unsafe driving, drivers who drive when they're drunk, others who drive because they want to be reckless with speed racing and the like. All of this causes tremendous human damage, carnage, death -- and health costs that are unbelievably high. We need to take that into account as we talk about what we need to do to get people to drive safer.
It would be nice, I would argue, if governments, provincial and federal, invested billions of dollars in transit to get people out of cars and make it easier for people to get on a streetcar, a bus or a GO train. I say we're not spending nearly as much as we ought to, as a province and as a federal government, to get people out of cars. I find that sad. I find it shameful.
We have another interesting statistic that I read about where in 2004, by that study, there were 19 million vehicles and 21 million drivers -- astounding numbers. Would that we, as a government, committed ourselves to investing a portion of those dollars in getting people out of cars and putting them in buses, subways, trains and streetcars. It would be lovely to do. Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to organize our living arrangements so that people wouldn't have to drive for kilometres to get what they need, to get their essentials? Wouldn't it be nice to get people out of their cars instead of driving for a kilometre or two or three to buy essential things such as bread, milk and butter? They've got to use a car.
It's incredible how we organize our North American societies. We pay so little attention to this kind of planning. We love to sprawl and we love to get people out so they can own two-acre lots. What an incredible waste.
So how do we deal with safer roads for a safer Ontario? How do we deal with drunk drivers? How do we deal with those who speed excessively? How do we deal with speed racing? The government came up with Bill 203, which provides for increased authority to govern and impose fees for administration, impaired driving and road racing. In addition, there's authority to impose consequences when fees or penalties are not paid. We agreed. Our critic from Toronto—Danforth agrees with this.
Impaired driving: Bill 203 provides for increased roadside suspension of licences of impaired drivers. Police can stop vehicles and do a breath test with an approved and calibrated screening device or instrument. If a blood alcohol concentration of 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood is detected and indicated by a warning or an alert diagnosis, a roadside officer can suspend his or her licence. Further, the period of suspension has been increased in this bill: first offence, three days; second offence, seven days; third offence, 30 days. Further, previous suspensions will not be considered if they occurred five or more years previous, but the officer may impound the vehicle of an impaired driver at the expense of the owner of the vehicle. We agree with that too. If a conviction occurs, the licence suspension is increased to first conviction, one year; second conviction, three years; third conviction, indefinitely. An ignition interlock condition makes it easier for offenders to apply to get their licence early if they agree to a conduct review program which includes the installation of an ignition interlock device, which is a device to analyze the breath of the driver before the ignition will start, and they cannot drive any vehicle without an ignition interlock device.
Street racing: Street racing fines have been increased to a minimum of $2,000 and maximum of $10,000. Licence suspensions have been increased as well: first conviction, not more than two years, and a subsequent conviction, not more than 10 years.
All these things are intended to punish reckless driving, reckless drivers, speed racing, and all of it is okay. But the member from Toronto—Danforth argues, as I do, that we need to look beyond how we punish them once they have decided to race their cars or once they've decided to drink heavily and then drive. Yes, these will punish those drivers, but he argues, as I argue, that we need to look at how we prevent people from doing that in the first place. That's where we should be spending the billions of dollars that it costs our health care system -- $25 billion to $30 billion in Canada, $9 billion in Ontario -- so let's say anywhere from one billion to nine billion bucks is what it costs the health care system to treat people once they are involved in dangerous collisions, to treat people with brain injuries, to treat the fact that they are paraplegic once they've been involved in an accident, to treat those for all sorts of injuries, such as spinal cord. This costs billions of dollars. If we spent a portion of the money it takes to treat people once they have been in an accident and if we found a way to convince young people that this kind of dangerous driving is going to hurt them, not just in terms of their pocket but in terms of the human, psychological consequences it will have on the person who causes the problem and on those who are victims, if we could get some of that money and convince people how tough it will be, not just for the victims but for those who have perpetrated this crime, imagine how much better it would be in the end.
What can we do? What should we be doing? The member from Toronto—Danforth raised a good point. From a study that was done in the United States, where you have more programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous there are fewer drunk drivers on the road; there are fewer accidents as a result of it. Clearly, it is a preventive program that works, yet all too frequently in so many parts of Canada, we don't have enough of these programs. Again, all too frequently, where people are seeking assistance they don't know where to go. We don't have enough programs to help people who are in need.
We know that so many of our young people who have problems acquire these problems at an early age. Why don't we look at why it is young people become addicted to alcohol? They become addicted to alcohol at an early age because of some abuse that has happened in their home. What can we do for those families? What services can we provide to prevent that young man from committing a crime, or in this particular instance, committing a crime as it relates to a car, because they drink and they drive or because they want to race?
These are the questions we need to ask. Is it an issue of mental illness? Sometimes it is. Do we have enough adequate programs to support these young men and women who are perpetrators of these crimes? We all know we're not spending enough. We all know that since Mike Harris, God bless his soul, left us -- he took $13 billion to $14 billion out of our provincial coffers. What do you think he left us? Big social deficits that we cannot repair any longer. He took $13 billion away, and the provincial Liberal government is bringing in $2.4 billion by introducing a health tax, a tax they swore they would never introduce. But in breaking a promise, they bring in $2.4 billion, hardly enough to make up for the damage Mike Harris left us, a social deficit of $13 billion to $14 billion over an eight-year period. What do you think we've cut as a result of Mike Harris leaving that deficit? Health care, education and social programs -- cuts that are leaving an indelible mark on all of society, and that mark is not a positive one, but a negative one. We need to bring back some dollars into our provincial coffers to be able to provide the programs young people need.
In relation to this as well, I was thinking of C.W. Jefferys high school, where the young man was just killed but a mere couple of days ago, a 14-year-old young man. It's tragic. You wonder how it happens. How does some other young man -- we now find out two of his friends, probably the same age. How did they acquire the strength to pick up a gun, find a gun, illegally or otherwise, and kill another young man, who in this instance happened to be a friend? How did they do it?
There was talk about greater security systems in our high schools, more monitoring systems, perhaps have the police in the hallway, as they do in the United States. These things are not going to prevent someone from killing someone else. It might make you feel good to say that. It might make people feel safer that you have monitoring systems or the police nearby -- if you can afford to have them, because we have fewer police today than we did 10 years ago. But I am saying that we need other preventive measures to make sure that these kids never pick up a gun.
Why is it that they pick up a gun? We don't ask those tough questions. Why is it that we don't look at why so many people who come from poverty-stricken areas commit more crimes than some others? What is it about their surroundings that makes this possible? What is it that we could do to improve their housing and make them have pride about living in a community that feels good for them, to be living in a habitable place where you don't have problems of leakages in your washrooms, or having rats or mice or cockroaches infesting your building, where buildings are crumbling because we don't have enough money to repair them? Why don't we look at that as an issue of community pride, as an issue of young men and women feeling good about not feeling bad about where they live? Why don't we look at how we give incentives to young people to make sure that they have better opportunities in our school system, to make sure they stay? Are we providing meaningful programs so kids have a desire to stay in school rather than leave? Why don't we look at programs that deal with mental illness? Because we know that there's a growing mental illness problem. Why don't we look at poverty issues? Why can't we pay young men and women, and older men and women, adequate salaries so that they don't feel so stressed out? Why don't we pay men and women an adequate salary so that they don't have to have two or three jobs and so that they can spend time with their children at home at night? Why don't we look at these social issues as a way of preventing problems from happening?
You can invest a whole lot of money to go after gangs -- and you should; I have no problem with that. We have to go after gang activity and we have to go as hard as we can to stop it and to make sure we break it up. Yes, all guns should be disposed of. We should ban guns, but saying it doesn't make guns go away. Saying we should ban guns does not deal with the fact that we have 242 points of entry in Canada from the US that don't have any personnel. Why don't we deal with that? We can and should. We can and should be helpful and say, "How can we help?" rather than finding easy solutions such as, "Well, we should ban guns." That is an easy thing to say: "We should be tough on those who have guns." Yes, that is true and that is an easy thing to say, but it doesn't ban the illegal activity that happens and it doesn't ban bad behaviour. You've got to deal with the roots of bad behaviour, and I say those are rooted in the conditions in which young people find themselves. We've got to deal with that and we're not dealing with that.
This bill here is an attempt, with which I agree, to be tough on drunk drivers, to be tough on speed racing. But we have to do more as a way of making sure that we prevent kids from getting into those cars and racing; as a way of preventing young people from speeding; as a way of getting young people and older people away from drinking and driving. Yes, we need a campaign. Yes, we need the provincial government to invest just a portion of those billions of dollars of health-related costs -- take some of that and invest and convince people through public campaigns in schools and public campaigns, all over every avenue of society where people gather together to talk, and talk about why drinking and driving is a health cost that we cannot afford, that drinking and driving will kill people, that drinking and driving leaves an incredible psychological toll on the victims and the perpetrators. These campaigns work. We've seen it with smoking. It took 20 years. The anti-smoking campaign people took 20 years to convince governments to introduce legislation that made it tougher for people to smoke -- and it worked.
Campaigns do work. A public campaign against drinking and driving and against speed racing works if we combine it with a desire to get to the root of the problems. For that, you've got to find out what the social problems are and how we prevent those young people from getting involved in this kind of activity that is hurtful, that kills and that is costly socially, psychologically and economically.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments? Are there any questions and comments?
Further debate? Is there any further debate?
The minister or the parliamentary assistant may wish to respond. No? Okay.
Mrs. Cansfield has moved third reading of Bill 203, An to amend the Highway Traffic Act and the Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
There being more than five, please call in the members. There will be a 30-minute bell.
Oh, no, there won't. I have received a notice.
"To the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly:
"Pursuant to standing order 28(h), I request that the vote on the motion by Minister Cansfield for third reading of Bill 203, An to amend the Highway Traffic Act and the Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other Acts be deferred until the time of deferred votes on May 29, 2007."
It is signed by the chief government whip.
It will be deferred until that time.
Orders of the day.
Hon. Christopher Bentley (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities): I move adjournment of the House.
The Acting Speaker: Is it the agreement of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 1908.