Really? How did they decide what to do?

  Ever wonder how government officials decide on how they make policy? 

   While many ask that question during these pandemic times and watch as the often aggressive strategy of pushing forward agendas is overwhelming. 

   However, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving released some information, or at least reminded or pointed out a startling fact. There has been no new information on impairment related crashes, deaths and injuries since 2015 from the federal government. 

   Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada says despite all the government’s and society’s attention on the pandemic, Murie says it is important to note the impact of the lack of information. It was Canada Road Safety Week May 12–18 and information like this could help.

   “We had contact with Federal Minister of Transport during the fall about this issue and he promised action from his officials. Nothing happened and then the pandemic set in. We are releasing this story today because of the lack of in action by the federal government. How can you do effective policy when your data is five years old and incomplete.   We want Transport Canada to take over this data collection and work with the provinces to speed up the release of the data. Most provinces have completed their 2018 data and it begs the question why is the national data three years behind?” he explains directly in an email to Prairie Post. “If we had more timely and accurate data we would use this data to assess the impact of legalizing cannabis and the impact of Bill C-46 which expanded police powers to include mandatory alcohol screening. Good data also allows organizations like ourselves to make a compelling arguments of what still must be done to reduce impaired deaths and injuries.” 

   This lack of attention is like all relationships whether it be personal, business or government: people put forth the effort they want to on whatever is important to them. They prioritize their time and energy and actions speak for themselves. 

   Prior to the pandemic hitting, much of the political discussion revolved around the fact there was no money to do whatever lobbying agency or provincial government was pushing for i.e. energy sector. 

   However when the pandemic hit, all of a sudden governments, both provincial and federal responded immediately. Multi-layered legislations, bills and complicated economic business and person bailout and social welfare hand-ups were derived within a matter of scant weeks, if not days. 

   The speed, efficiency and preciseness of these programs shows that if pushed, government, in this case federally, can achieve positive progress if they feel it is important enough, i.e. life and death. 

   Life and death…like impaired driving policies and sharing stats publically? 

   With small amount of cannabis possession being legal as of Oct. 17, 2018, there were the obligatory “don’t drive high” campaigns” which help to an extent but according to the federal department of justice, there is a lack of up to date information. MADD was protesting the Department of Justice’s info: “(Released: 2016-12-14.) Police reported 72,039 impaired driving incidents in 2015, a rate of 201 incidents per 100,000 population. Of the total number of incidents, 122 were cases of impaired driving causing death and 596 were cases of impaired driving causing bodily harm.”

   While the numbers aren’t as lofty as COVID-19 nor is fair to compare global health pandemic where people are choosing to be sick whereas people are choosing to be drunk or high and then dangerously getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, the fact the government didn’t do anything to solidify penalties is telling. 

   Sure, they defined the limits of nanogram of drugs and officers have been trained Drug Recognition Evaluations like the  “The prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis, when found in combination, is 50mg or more of alcohol per 100ml blood and 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood” or the less serious offence “to have between 2 nanograms (ng) and 5 ng of THC per ml of blood. It is a more serious offence to have 5 ng of THC or more per ml of blood.”

   They even changed the law as it is illegal to be at or over the limit within two hours of being stopped. 

   But without proper stats, we don’t how it is working out. The fact that 2016 was the last time they released information shows this isn’t a high end priority. 

   After all, we should be doing our part regarding drinking and driving. We make that individual choice. No one is going to care about impaired driving stats right?

   In Saskatchewan, the laws were toughened up in 2018. The Saskatchewan Government Insurance handles a lot of the public education and regarding impaired driving. Murie says Sask. and Manitoba have the best anti-impaired driving laws in Canada. They have an aggressive marketing and education campaign talking about everything from too impaired driving. Yet, they are still using 2015 stats on their statistics page. 

   It needs updating. Like any communication, ifone party wanted to to do it, it could happen. The federal government has shown they can mobilize quickly. Nothing new since Dec. 16, 2016 is unacceptable. COVID-19 wasn’t an issue until late February 2020. 


Ryan Dahlman is managing editor of Prairie Post East and Prairie Post West

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