I am in shock to realize that Ponoka, Alta. is the Impaired Driving Capital of Canada, as RCMP Staff Sgt. Cameron Chisholm stated in a town meeting on Jan. 15.
When the staff sergeant started to give us numbers regarding his statement, he was going for the shock and awe treatment. He said the majority of impaired charges laid, were against non-Ponoka residents living within 40 kilometres of our town.
To the south that would be as far as Blackfalds but why would they drive here to purchase liquor? To the west, Crestomere. To the east, Bashaw is close, as is Alix, but neither community is within the 40-kilometre. To the north, there is the area including Hobbema and Wetaskiwin. So when the staff sergeant says within 40 kilometres of Ponoka, is he talking about Hobbema and Wetaskiwin?
Staff Sgt. Chisholm gave us an eye-opening presentation, but when you start to think about it, where did these numbers come from? It is stated that in Ponoka 80 impaired driving charges were laid for a population base of 6,773. That works out to one for every 84 residents. In Wetaskiwin, 58 charges for a population of 12,525. This is one for every 215 residents. My question is, how many vehicles were stopped in Ponoka and area over the year, and how many stopped in the Wetaskiwin area over that same time? Is the Ponoka RCMP and Alberta Sheriff’s department spending more time and energy on this issue than our neighbor to the north? Out of those numbers from both communities, what is the ratio of impaired to sober drivers? Do the numbers for 2012 include the .05 charges as well as the .08? These are just a few of the questions that need answers before any rational decision can be made.
The proposed business hours bylaw wants liquor stores to close at 10 p.m. seven days a week .The liquor stores in Ponoka now close at 10 p.m. during the week, with the exception of Hammy’s Spirits, which closes at 11 p.m. On Friday and Saturday all the stores are open until 11 p.m. The only place to get alcohol after that is either the Leland Hotel or the Royal Hotel. So where is this bylaw really pointed — at two businesses? In and amongst this bylaw are the hours limiting the one pawnshop in town. Why is that part of this business hours bylaw and not part of the debate? Does it have anything to do with the non-Ponoka residents from within 40 kilometres of here?
The staff sergeant has wanted this bylaw on the books for the past three years. He has every right to advise the town with his concerns. He also has to be able to present all the statistics, a collection of quantitative data as to why this is a just bylaw to have on the books. Put all the facts on the table and let the people decide what is good for Ponoka.