A fall session will cap an unusually busy year for the B.C. legislature

Careless driving, smoking penalties on way

Premier Christy Clark to recall the B.C. legislature Sept. 28, the third legislative sitting of the year

VICTORIA – The B.C. legislature is being recalled Sept. 28 for a fall session that will likely deal with increasing penalties for distracted driving and careless smoking.

The B.C. government has signalled its intention to increase penalties in both areas. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton announced preliminary results of public consultation on distracted driving penalties at the end of June, with 90 per cent of respondents calling for stiffer penalties for using smartphones while driving.

Anton said the current $167 ticket for distracted drivers is not sufficient for repeat offenders, who could have their vehicles impounded. Saskatchewan has introduced a one-week seizure of the vehicle for drivers who get two distracted driving tickets less than a year apart.

After dry conditions sparked an early start to the B.C. forest fire season, Forests Minister Steve Thomson announced a review of penalties for violating campfire bans and tossing lit cigarettes.

Thomson appointed Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris, a former RCMP superintendent, to lead a similar review of those penalties. Morris said he was considering the vehicle impoundment option for careless tossing of cigarette butts, and prohibiting people from camping in provincial parks if they violate campfire restrictions.

Fire bans allow use of camp stoves or barbecues with briquets for cooking, but conservation officers continue to find people lighting wood fires that give off sparks and can spread in dry conditions.

The fall session will complete an unusually busy year for the B.C. legislature, which was recalled in July to authorize a project development agreement for the Pacific Northwest LNG gas export project proposed for Prince Rupert.