Alberta has passed its contentious impaired driving bill, imposing stricter penalties on drivers who are impaired or refuse to submit to an on-the-spot Breathalyzer test.
Calgary lawyer Bob Sawer contends the new law violates basic judicial principles. "Seeing as you’re being punished and losing your license for up to a year or two pending the outcome of your trial, I would say that’s a breach of the presumption of innocence," Sawer says. "How would you like it if you run into some police officer who says you refused to provide a breath sample because you wanted to speak to your lawyer, you get charged, you’re completely innocent of anything and you’re found to be innocent, but meanwhile you lose your license and your means to support your family for two years while you’re waiting for your trial?"
Sawer is not alone in his opposition to the legislation. Members of the hospitality industry have been pressuring government to ease up in Alberta and B.C., where similar legislation passed last year.
In a Dec. 5 press conference Premier Alison Redford defended Bill 26, which was still being debated in the Legislature. "We’ve set a tone in terms of what we believe are the values that a community needs to aspire to and I think we’re reflecting where the community is," Redford said. She added that the provincial government has no plans to mitigate the affects the law may have on the hospitality industry.
She suggested municipalities and bars could address the outcomes they expect from this legislation by expanding taxi or public transit service, and educating their patrons about changes to the law.
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