Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hey! Look how much we care about drunk driving!!

In what I’m sure is completely coincidental timing, coming as it does as Canadians express their outrage over former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer (loving husband to boot-throwing, PEI hating, airport security staff berating Conservative minister Helena Guergis) walking into a courtroom facing charges of driving under the influence and possession of cocaine, and walking out with a $500 fine for careless driving, comes this bit of justice-related diversion from Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson:

The Harper government appears ready to move ahead on imposing random roadside breath testing, which a new federal discussion paper says has produced "remarkable results" in catching more drunk drivers in other countries.

The Justice Department is inviting public input on the idea of random sobriety tests and federal officials plan to meet this month and next with provincial ministers and other experts to measure support.

In a rare move, the federal government has posted on its website a discussion paper, weighing the benefits of random testing, seeking feedback by the end of April.

Empowering police to conduct random breath tests would replace Canada's 40-year-old legislation on impaired driving, which dictates that breathalyzer tests can only be administered when there is reasonable suspicion of drunk driving.

You know, my first thought was that this was an attempt to distract from the latest drama of everyone’s favourite Conservative power couple, but on second thought, if it is, it’s a pretty poor one. After all, it only serves to draw attention back to the Jaffer case.

Would this proposed change -- which as I’ve written before is a really bad idea, a completely draconian invasion of privacy, unlikely to do much to prevent drunk driving, and could quite possibly be unconstitutional – have made any difference in the Jaffer case? Not with the facts as they’re known at the moment. (We could use more facts, though.) The police apparently did perform a breathalyzer in this case, which Jaffer is alleged to have failed. If there was a problem with the admissibility of that search, that may have led to the plea bargain, we don’t know right now.

The whole point of this proposal though would be to subject many more people to random searches to see if they happen to be drinking and driving – and maybe have a look around their car for other fun stuff at the same time. If the Jaffer case shows anything though it’s not that the problem is getting them pulled over, it’s what happens after that, and as the case is turned over to the justice system.

Everything in law-making is a balancing act, security vs. personal liberty. And if you’re asking me to sacrifice a great deal of my personal liberty for a marginally greater likelihood of seeing people given meaningless $500 fines, then I’d say no, and try coming up with a plan that isn’t completely stupid, please.

Personally, I think the problem isn't the laws. It's a lack of resources to enforce them. Invest in police, and invest in a justice system so they have the resources to actually try cases. Too often, prosecutors feel pushed into plea bargains to keep their clearance rates up, because they don't have the time to deal with the backlog of cases. There's also the fact prosecutors are judged on their win/loss records, leaving them leery of pursuing borderline cases.

If you really want to get tough on crime, let's start there.

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CanadianSense said...


the standard is to recycle the failing of CPC MP who lost in Alberta in 2008 to attack his wife Helena a current minister who blew a gasket, apologized immediately for a behaviour NO one has made an excuse for? (except Nation Post Kelly P.)

Is this really a national story?

Last night 29 Liberals did not show up for work to vote against a budget they don't support.

Can you explain how this serves our democracy when the official opposition is producing publicity stunts 24/7 without offering a single idea INSIDE parliament for their support?

Liberals are aware the gov't is a minority and requires support to remain in power?

Why are the Liberals refusing to hold this government to account inside Parliament and be a responsible politicial party?

MERBOY said...

RE: CanadianSense...

"Can you explain how this serves our democracy when the official opposition is producing publicity stunts 24/7 without offering a single idea INSIDE parliament for their support?"

So the party with a broadcast studio isn't the one constantly producing publicity stunts?

"Why are the Liberals refusing to hold this government to account inside Parliament and be a responsible politicial party?"

Obviously the answer is to cause an election that will most likely result in yet another Conservative minority??

This drunk driving legislation is very much like all of the other half assed Conservative policy ideas.

When it comes to paying more and giving up rights in exchange for a tiny increase in security... our faithful Conservatives are definitely all over that.

It's great that their top priority is crime when we have some of the lowest crime rates in years... yup we definitely wouldn't want them spending our money fixing some real problems.

Brian Busby said...

Well, if "the standard is to recycle the failing of CPC MP who lost in Alberta in 2008 to attack his wife Helena", it's certainly not in evidence here; mention of her recent outburst is limited to a dozen or so words contained in parenthesis. Indeed, Mr Jaffer isn't even the subject of this entry.

"Is this really a national story?"

The government's intent to impose random roadside breath testing nationally? Yes, I'd say it is.

What any of this has to do with a vote on the budget, I do not know.

Jeff said...

Oh, CS. First, on Helena, she didn't apologize immediately. A week later, after learning the story is about to go public, isn't immediate. It's half-assed damage control.

Second, on story or not a story. I get to decide what's a story on my blog. You get to decide what's a story on your blog. And out in "the real world" Canadians get to decide.

I know Conservatives are enamored of the Tim Horton's test. I'd like to suggest you stop by your local for a double double and a fritter, and hear what they're talking about. I'll bet you a timbit more are talking about the Jaffer/Guergis dynamic duo then are talking about the mechanics of the Liberal budget response.

Finally, if you want an election, say so. Encourage your party to say so. I don't want an election though, and I don't think Canadians do either.

CanadianSense said...


I accept Liberals have a problem with setting priorities and getting it done.

I don't need to visit T.H. to connect to the real world of what is on the minds of those patrons.

You are absolutely correct, this is your blog and I admire many of your posts for taking the high road.

I did not need manufacture a scandal on wafers, nannygate, lateness for photos in G8.

You represent a higher standard on Lib blogs and chasing the small stuff lowers that bar.

Please NAIL the gov't on failing to address "x" and let's debate those points.

Jeff with 29 Liberals refusing to hold the feet to fire last night of the gov't how can you suggest your party is capable of fighting on "roadside breath" testing?

That was my subject of my post.

Jeff said...

And the topic of my post was that Nicholson's proposal on random breathalyzers, in addition to being amusingly timed, is stupid, ineffectual and draconian and would do nothing to alter outcomes of cases such as Jaffer's, which has generated much public outrage.

If you have some thoughts on justice reform vis a vis these sorts of cases, and whether or not random breathlyzers or, as I suggested, more resources for the courts and prosecutors to try cases, is the way to go I welcome your thoughts.

CanadianSense said...

Jeff do we agree the problem we have regarding crime represent a very small number of people who simple "repeat" the lifesytle.

1) Agree with stats most crime are going down.
2) Resources should target high risk repeat offenders.

The shotgun, scattershot approach is too wasteful with the limited resources.

How many times do we read about a drunk driver suspended 2-4x no licence, no insurance etc is behind the wheel again?

Long raps sheets should mean longer sentences if "rehabilitation" has proved unsuccessful.

Jeff said...

I agree with going after repeat offenders. I'd question if stiffer sentences are really a deterrent -- I don't think they are -- but for the most serious crimes and habitual offenders, I'm fine with that.

My problem with government justice policy though is that they've been too focused on stiffer sentencing, to the exclusion of other solutions, namely prevention. Sure you get them off the streets, but at high cost, and little deterrence. And locking everyone up forever isn't really a long-term solution.

I'd like to see more attention paid to deterrence, addressing root causes so they don't turn to crime in the first place, which would seem to be the most desirable outcome. That's why I support things like the safe injection site, for example -- it has shown a marked reduction in drug-fueled property crime and theft in the area. We need more creative ideas, and just plain investment in poorer communities, action on poverty, and so on.

I also think all the tough laws in the world aren't much use if the police don't have the resources to investigate them, the crown attorney the resources to prosecute them, and the justice system the resources to hear them. Right now, they don't have the resources, which lead to pleas to lesser charges, and never let those stiffer sentences even get on the table.

You need to tackle crime from a number of angles. In Larry Campbell's Vancouver, they used to talk about a three pillar approach. My beef with the Harper government is they're only using one pillar.

RuralSandi said...

CS - I don't believe you get to set the agenda for a blogger's blog.

All over the blogosphere as usual with you nonsense.

Last I heard, it's Jeff's blog, not yours.

Who says a blogger's blog has to be a national story?

As far as I'm concerned, Guergis' apology is not accepted.

Jaffer is married to a cabinet minister, so what he does is news, especially when he breaks the law after spending his political career attacking drug users.

kenlister1 said...

How about investing in 25000 more police officers! I can imagine a party promising that in their official 2006 campaign platform, and then winning election, and then not doing anything about it.
Harper hypocracy.

ridenrain said...

Problem is that Loud Mouth Larrry Campbell's stool never seemed to have enough pillars to let it stand on it's own. Right now we enable the use of illegal drugs but we seem to refuse to accept that they are illegal because they are dangerous.
Almost every day in BC, we have illegal drugs or weapons found in cars and there is no legal repercussions because the police had no "right" to search the car. The illegal items are confiscated but no charges are laid. If you Liberals are so angry about this, maybe we can come to some agreements... but I doubt it.

MERBOY said...

ridenrain said...

"Almost every day in BC, we have illegal drugs or weapons found in cars and there is no legal repercussions because the police had no "right" to search the car. The illegal items are confiscated but no charges are laid."

How would allowing police to make people take a breathalyzer affect their ability to search through an entire car?

Anonymous said...

The other issue that gets overlooked sometimes is the fact that there is at least a perception that judges throw out cases on technicalities.

I think a distinction should be made between evidence that was improperly gathered and evidence that may be tainted or falsified. Evidence that may be tainted must be thrown out to ensure a fair justice system. But evidence that is merely gathered improperly should not be.

Don't get me wrong, if the police are breaking the rules, then the police should be punished for it. But freeing a guilty man does not punish the police, it punishes society.

Here's an example of what I mean. The police search a home without a warrant. Inside they find clear evidence of that the owner committed the crime they're investigating. There's no question that the police should NOT be searching homes without a warrant, but letting the guilty man walk free is not in the interests of justice. Instead the man should be tried using the evidence and in a seperate case, the police should answer for their crime of violating the laws around searches.

If on the other hand the improper actions of police are actually tainting the evidence so that it could be false evidence, then of course the evidence should be thrown out because it's not real evidence of anything. Well not quite... It's evidence of police misdeeds and should be used in a separate case.

That's what's missing from the Jaffer case. If there's no chance of conviction because the evidence is being tossed, then we need to know why it's being tossed. If it's being tossed because it's tainted then the police have some serious explaining to do. If it's being tossed on a mere technicality than the justice system has some explaining to do.