Mayor of Prince Albert, Sask., says province has mixed message on drunk driving

Greg Dionne is calling on tougher penalties for impaired driving

A Saskatchewan mayor is criticizing the provincial government for what he says are mixed signals about impaired driving.

In this week’s throne speech, Premier Brad Wall urged municipalities to allow ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft to operate in their jurisdictions.

Related: Saskatchewan opens the door to ride-hailing coverage

He cited the province’s high rate of drunk-driving fatalities, and suggested that giving people another option to get home safely might cut back on impaired driving.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne doesn’t buy that.

He says people in Saskatchewan continue to drive drunk, not because of a lack of options, but because the province hasn’t imposed stiff enough penalties.

Dionne says there are plenty of ways to get home safely – including taxis, public transit, free buses on holidays and getting a ride from a friend or family member.

Adding another option wouldn’t influence repeat impaired drivers, but harsher penalties would, he suggested.

“The government has to lead and show that they’re going to get tough on impaired driving. That’s the number one option – not coming up with another way for a ride home.”

Related: Liquor liability claims on the rise

The provincial government has shown it isn’t interested in harsh penalties, said Dionne, who pointed to the return of former deputy premier Don McMorris to caucus less than a year after his conviction for impaired driving.

“We have people in government, in authority, who got caught, and seven months later they’re all forgiven,” he said. “These are the kinds of messages that I don’t want the government to send.”

Dionne also believes the province could reduce impaired driving through legislation. He pointed out that off-sale purchases can be made until 3 a.m. and liquor stores are allowed to operate 365 days a year.

Both probably contribute heavily to the problem, he said.

– With files from CKBI

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