That’s a headline that ran in the Sun, nearly a generation ago. It changed political history.
Remember Lyn McLeod? I do. McLeod was the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party in the mid-1990s. In the months leading up to the 1995 election, McLeod had a massive lead in every opinion poll. NDP Premier Bob Rae’s government was despised; P.C. leader Mike Harris was mostly unknown.
One fateful day, McLeod talked to a reporter on proposed legislation that would change the definition of domestic violence – and the penalties for it.
One penalty for abusing one’s spouse, she said, should be the abuser’s eviction from the family home. Hard to argue with that, perhaps.
But then the reporter asked McLeod if domestic violence included “verbal abuse.” It did, she said. Yes.
The next day, the headline in the Toronto Sun was this: “Shout at spouse, lose your house.”
Almost immediately, the Ontario Liberals started to slide in the polls. Mike Harris would go on to win a big majority. And a close friend, and a senior advisor to McLeod, later told me: “Yell at the spouse, lose the house,” he said. “That’s why we lost.”
Which brings us to this, the former Bill C-46:
The law that destroyed the Ontario Liberals was a proposed law. This one now is law.
But it’s the law of the land. It gives police the power to demand you submit to a breathalyzer, even they don’t have a reasonable suspicion you’re impaired. Even if you aren’t behind the wheel.
When this change was being considered, legal experts warned that a Canadian who drives home, sober, and then consumes some alcohol could register a fail on the breathalyzer – even though they didn’t drive while drunk. And that’s in fact what happened to a B.C. woman: she was by the pool at her sister’s place, having a drink, when the RCMP arrived and demanded a breath sample.
She lost her licence and her vehicle. Ultimately, she defeated the impairment charge on a technicality – but not before spending thousands on legal fees.
The media are already calling this a “police state” law. That it’s “an inexcusable violation of an individual’s Charter rights, and an invitation to police harassment of visible minorities“. Hell, even the CBC is calling it “unnecessary police power.”
Make no mistake: this issue – coming in the Summer before an election – is potentially lethal for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, I am told, are now preparing to do to Trudeau what Mike Harris and a Toronto Sun headline did to Lyn McLeod.
“Have a drink, wind up in the clink”: may not be as deadly as that long-ago Sun headline. But it may do the trick.
UPDATE: Oh, look. Shortly after the above post went up, something interesting happened. I’d say they are nervous, wouldn’t you?
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) July 6, 2019