Pubdate: Tue, 06 Dec 2005
Source: Southern Gazette, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2005 Transcontinental Media
Author: Averill Baker
Note: Averill Baker is a St. John's lawyer. Her column returns in two weeks.


The election is on, and each political party is claiming to be different 
from the others. However, there are some laws all three political parties 
agree on in principle.

It appears three new laws are bound to be passed after the election 
regardless of which political party forms the government.

If you are a driver of a car and you take prescription drugs that affect 
your senses, or if you smoke pot, or if you're tempted to catch a cod 
illegally, read on.

Here's how each political party will deal with you after the election.

In the dying moments of parliament, although all parties supported them, 
three new laws just didn't make the final stages of passage. The Liberals, 
Conservatives and NDP supported the proposed laws in principle.

Last week I had the privilege to discuss and debate the content of the 
three proposed new laws while attending a Canadian Bar Association meeting 
in Vancouver, in my position as Chair of the Criminal Law Section in this 

You probably have heard about the first of the three - the proposed new law 
to stop drug driving by people who take prescription drugs, 
over-the-counter drugs and illegal drugs.

The three political parties agree people who take prescription, 
over-the-counter, and illegal drugs should be tested at roadside if there 
is any sign of impairment.

How does the new law propose to do that on the side of the road?

The police will have to give the driver mandatory physical co-ordination 
tests. If the driver fails on physical co-ordination, then the driver is 
asked to pee in a bottle.

Among the several physical tests administered on the side of the road is 
one in which the driver will have to hop on one leg without losing his or 
her balance. Another is to stand on one foot and touch the toes of the foot 
you are standing on without losing your balance.

If you fail the physical co-ordination tests (that I predict half of us 
couldn't perform cold sober), then you must pee in a bottle for testing of 
prescription and non-prescription drugs. If you refuse to do the tests or 
to pee in the bottle, you will automatically be found guilty of impaired 

The second bill is to legalize the possession of moderate amounts of marijuana.

The third bill is a reinforcement of the Fisheries Act.

Apart from requiring Aunt Susie in Nipper's Harbour or Uncle George in Joe 
Batt's Arm to hop on one foot around a car if they are on pain medication, 
the fines imposed by the other two bills for breaking the law tell us a lot 
about today's politicians.

A person found with a moderate amount of marijuana on his or her person 
(less than a dozen joints) will face a fine up to a maximum of $100.

A fellow caught with an illegally caught cod or some other fish faces a 
maximum fine of $100,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

So, a fellow found on the wharf in Harry's Harbour with some dope in one 
hand and a cod in the other will surely regret catching that cod.

Just imagine a $100 ticket for the dope and a $100,000 fine and a possible 
year in jail for the cod!

It's not that a person would actually get those maximum fines, but it 
identifies the importance each political party places on each offence. The 
intent of parliament in passing the law is considered in the fine and the 
sentence in court.

What do these proposed new laws say about our politicians in Ottawa?

One conclusion is obvious - while our political parties are against 
drug-impaired driving, they are surprisingly tolerant of 'wacky baccy'.

Averill Baker is a St. John's lawyer. Her column returns in two weeks.
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