We need a holistic approach

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“Nullum crimen sine lege: there is no crime without law.”

When governments establish policies, they do so with good intentions. When we evaluate them, however, we look at their outcomes. If they cause more harm than good, then they are bad policies, which can lead to bad laws. But governments rarely set forth such metrics, instead they look toward public approval ratings, their appeal to certain sectors of society, as a means of weighing in on their decisions. This is why we are over-burdened with bad or inconsistent decision-making.

The most recent example emanating from the Trudeau government is the proposal to reduce the allowable blood alcohol levels from 0.08 to 0.05 in an effort to reduce the number of drivers who are impaired by alcohol on our roads. It is difficult to argue with such intentions, as we have all most probably been touched by such an incident. However, is this approach that has persisted for decades flawed? Drinking and driving is still apparent within our society, and we have not asked why. Could it be that the problem rests in the fact that we allow people to drink then drive, and impaired decision-making leads into the problem?

The easiest solution to the legal issue would be to establish a law of zero tolerance, banning drinking and driving, as is the case in many other jurisdictions around the globe. Politically, however, this may not be such a prudent course, as the economic interests of various groups may be negatively affected, and it may not appeal to the majority of Canadians either.

The social reality of alcohol within Canada is simple: it is part of our culture; it is the focal point of many social gatherings. It is a vice that helps some deal with life, but it does have associated problems too. For whatever reasons we consume alcohol, it is intrinsic to Canadian society, with examples of Temperance failing when governments have tried to impose such values through law. So, clearly another approach needs to be considered.

The projected outcomes also need to be reflected upon: this proposal also contradicts current principles surrounding the usage of other ‘substances’ once deemed illegal. With the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, the state is effectively removing the criminality once associated with this plant; with the lowering of the allowable levels of blood alcohol, the government could be making more Canadians into criminals. Is this truly the intended outcome the government is trying to pursue, or are we once again seeing the pursuit of ill-thought out, placatory policies? It is time for governments to take a step back to examine their responsibilities: to follow the principles of Peace, Order, and Good Governance set down in our Constitution. It is time to take a holistic approach to our policies and laws, and to stop putting together hodgepodge policies and laws, which are ambiguous to us as Canadians.

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About Author

John Kennair

John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.