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EDITORIAL: Arbitrary spot checks go too far

Let’s begin by stating we’re in favour of reasonable laws to curtail drinking and driving.

That includes supporting Ontario’s RIDE spot-check program, which has been upheld as constitutionally valid by the Supreme Court of Canada.

But that’s a far cry from what happened in Peel Region to Art Lightowler, 70, last Saturday afternoon.

As he told the Sun’s Michele Mandel, he was stopped by a police officer and forced to undergo a roadside breathalyzer test, on pain of a $2,000 fine and losing his licence for a year if he refused.

Lightowler, who passed the test after telling the officer he had a beer at midnight the night before, said the officer told him “he thought I had dropped off an excessive amount of bottles at The Beer Store.”

That’s an absurd reason to demand a breathalyzer test.

As Lightowler, who was returning his empties from the holiday season, asks, “What do we have now, a police state?”

But it’s legal, as of Dec. 18, because of amendments to the Criminal Code passed by the Trudeau government.

Police no longer need reasonable grounds to administer a breathalyzer test such as erratic driving, slurred speech or the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath.

They can also charge someone for impaired driving up to two hours after they’ve left their car, with the driver having to prove they weren’t impaired.

These measures were opposed by Conservative Senators and defence lawyers as too draconian on the way to becoming law.

The Liberals accused the Conservatives of caring more about partisanship than saving lives, arguing they’d previously supported random testing.

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she was confident the amendments, which are also supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, will be upheld by the courts.

The government said they were needed to stop drivers from claiming they had only consumed alcohol just before driving, meaning it hadn’t yet entered their bloodstream, or that they only started drinking after a crash.

Whatever the courts decide, it’s absurd that in Ontario the previous Liberal government outlawed arbitrary carding by police, while the federal Liberal government has now approved arbitrary roadside breathalyzer tests by police.

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