Provincial Transportation Minister Robert Vessey's idea of holding a summit on impaired driving in the province is a provocative concept. We've tried everything else to combat this scourge on our highways; why not pool our best resources on this issue and have an open and candid discussion?
Vessey announced the summit last week saying his department plans to bring together representatives of his department, the RCMP, municipal police, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Addiction Services and the justice department. The summit, scheduled for Feb. 13, is expected to focus on tangible and effective solutions to reducing instances of impaired driving.
The summit comes at a good time. The province recently made major changes to the Highway Traffic Act and they carry significant clout for impaired driving. Among other things, they include mandatory participation in the ignition interlock program for all convicted impaired drivers and much tougher vehicle seizure and impoundment consequences.
In light of the crackdown, the province is acting responsibly by doing what it can to ensure this issue remains in the public eye and gets the airing it needs. According to MADD's website, an estimated 1,250-1,500 people die and more than 63,000 are injured each year on Canadian highways because of impaired driving. Clearly too many Canadians still think it's acceptable to drink and drive. What does it take to change this attitude?
If our slow transition to becoming a non-smoking society is any indication, significantly changing attitudes toward drinking and driving may take many years. And during this period, it could take relentless lobbying and discussion to ultimately change behaviour.
The Feb. 13 summit alone isn't likely to change the world of drinking and driving, but it should keep the conversation about this troubling issue on the public agenda. And hopefully it will contribute to the longer-term objective of eventually eradicating this problem.
Kudos for all
The provincial government should get a nod of approval for moving ahead on the construction of a long-awaited addition to Montague Intermediate School. But it's the staff and students of the school who deserve the real credit. It was their unwillingness to settle for government's delay of the addition, which had been promised, and it was their determination to press for action, that forced government's hand.
Education Minister Alan McIsaac announced last week that a contract for the $1.3-million expansion to the school had been awarded, and that government is "committed to providing students in Eastern Kings with appropriate facilities to meet their programming needs, and we are pleased to see the Montague Intermediate School expansion progressing."
No doubt the minister is pleased, but he couldn't be as happy as the staff and students who will appreciate the new band room, added space for woodworking, metals and visual arts, an instructor's office, a small computer lab and an expansion of the multipurpose room. Until now, some students have had to walk to the nearby former senior high school, which had been closed and boarded up.
While government didn't actually renege on its promise to build the addition to the intermediate school, it did delay it, much to the disappointment of staff and students. Good for government for finally delivering, and good for those who kept government's feet to the fire. It obviously got results.