The provincial government has decided it wants to beef up its efforts to stop repeat offenders when it comes to drunk driving, but to do that it hasn’t introduced anything related to jail time.
Why is that?
When anyone is caught driving drunk they are charged under the Criminal Code of Canada, which is where the rules around sentences are found.
It’s the criminal code and not any provincial legislation that dictates how much jail time an offender gets.
P.E.I. already sees the stiffest sentences in the country when it comes to drunk driving because we are the only province where judges routinely give jail time for first-time offenders.
It’s almost automatic in P.E.I. whereas judges in other provinces usually hand out fines.
So when the provincial government wants to do something to try and stop drunk drivers, it uses the Highway Traffic Act to impose non-custodial penalties, such as lengthier periods of using the ignition interlock.
That’s the route Transportation Minister Robert Vessey took recently with the changes he introduced to the Highway Traffic Act.
Vessey and all of the other MLAs have zero say in what happens to the criminal code because it is a federal matter.
If we ever see longer sentences, mandatory jail time or any other changes to the criminal code offences related to drunk driving, they will have to come from Ottawa.
Our MLAs couldn’t make those changes even if they wanted to.