Pubdate: Tue, 19 Sep 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Shawn Jeffords
Page: A1


TORONTO - Ontario plans to introduce tough new penalties for
drug-impaired drivers ahead of the legalization of recreational
marijuana next July.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday there will be zero tolerance for
young people aged 21 and under, novice drivers and all commercial
drivers in Ontario who have a detectable presence of drugs or alcohol
in their system. The province will also increase all monetary
penalties and suspensions for impaired driving offences.

The announcement comes a little over a week after Ontario's Liberal
government announced its plan to distribute and sell recreational
cannabis in as many as 150 dedicated stores run by the province's
liquor control board and set the legal age to buy the drug at 19.

"We had a goal to balance the new freedom that people in Ontario will
have to use cannabis recreationally with everyone's expectation that
it will be managed responsibly," Wynne said.

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the proposed
changes would align both drug and alcohol impaired driving offences
under the law in Ontario. The new legislation would also increase
penalties for drivers who fail or refuse to provide a sample for a
roadside test, he added.

"Let me be clear," Del Duca said. "Driving while impaired is not
acceptable and will not be tolerated. We believe that these measures
are an important step towards ensuring that Ontario's roads remain
safe after July 1st, 2018."

Under the proposed rules, young or novice drivers (with a G1, G2, M1
or M2 licence) would face licence suspensions from three to 30 days
and fines from $250 to $450 if they have drugs or alcohol in their
system. Currently, young and novice drivers face a 24-hour licence
suspension and no monetary penalty.

Commercial drivers would face a three-day licence suspension and fines
from $250 to $450 if they have drugs or alcohol in their system.
Currently, there are no targeted suspension or monetary fines for
commercial drivers under the province's impaired driving laws.

Overall, under the proposed changes any driver who registers a warn or
fail on a roadside screening device would be fined anywhere from $250
to $450. The current fine is $198. Drivers who refuse to provide a
sample for a roadside test face a $550 fine under the proposed law, up
from the current $198 fine.

The tougher Ontario penalties would be in addition to current federal
criminal charges, suspensions and possible jail time for impaired
driving. The federal government is expected to approve an oral fluid
screening device for police to use to detect drug-impaired drivers in
the coming months.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada CEO Andrew Murie praised the
province for its proposed laws and said he hopes other provinces
follow Ontario's example. The group has been calling for a zero
tolerance approach to drivers who get behind the wheel with any drugs
or alcohol in their system.

"We know that model of good legislation, education and enforcement
works," he said. "This is a big first step. It's not going to be the
last step."

Progressive Conservative transportation critic Michael Harris said the
new penalties don't address the increased resources police will need
to deal with drug-impaired driving.

"The Wynne Liberals have either underestimated, or are wilfully blind
to how significant the needs of our police forces will be," Harris
said in a statement.

Last week, Officials from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police, Ontario Provincial Police and the Saskatoon Police Service
told a federal committee they need more time to train officers about
the new cannabis laws and more than double the number of police
officers who are certified to conduct roadside drug-impaired driving

If the government doesn't postpone the start date there will be a
window of six months to a year when police aren't fully ready, which
will allow organized crime to flourish, said OPP deputy commissioner
for investigations and organized crime Rick Barnum.

Wynne said the province will host a fall summit with policing
agencies, public health groups and other stakeholders to discuss
Ontario's marijuana legalization framework.

Wynne also appeared to leave the door open to expanding the sale of
recreational marijuana if efforts to eliminate the black market are

"If that means that ultimately we need more ways of making cannabis
available in a safe and responsible way in order to tackle that
illegal market then that's something that we will look at," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt