Through the centuries, many things have been accused of killing romance — boredom, familiarity, weight gain, bad breath, "knock knock" jokes, purchasing a minivan, Vince Vaughn movies, Fran Drescher’s voice, video games, "I’m with Stupid" T-shirts, cargo shorts, cellphones, texting, Twitter, having a parent-in-law move into the basement suite, and anything else that’s capable of turning hot, heavy breathing into a cold shoulder.
But this week was likely the first time anyone suggested a minuscule decrease in blood-alcohol content might make an entire nation lose that lovin’ feeling.
It is, of course, a preposterous notion. But that, in a nutshell, was the reaction of a spokesman for Quebec’s restaurant association at the news that federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is asking her provincial counterparts to support lowering the blood-alcohol limit for drivers to .05 per cent from .08 per cent in an effort to reduce the number of drunk-driving fatalities that occur in this vast roadway-connected land.
Industry advocate François Meunier said such a law change would have disastrous ramifications, for restaurants and for the pursuit of romance that sometimes occurs therein.
Under a lowered blood-alcohol limit, "a woman can have one drink and a man, in most cases, two," he offered. "Forget about a bottle of wine for two, for Valentine’s Day dinner — that’s over."
Cue the violins — and not in that terribly, sweetly romantic, sashaying-’twixt-the-tables-with-a-fiddle-to-create-special-moments-for-dining-couples kind of way.
While the timing of Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s effort — barely a year before the federal government will make recreational marijuana use legal while dumping the sure-to-be-controversial responsibility for enforcing stoned-driving statutes in the provinces’ laps — is curious, the logic behind her plan is rather sound.
According to the minister, new research shows the government of the day vastly underestimated the drunk-driving toll when it established the current .08 standard in 1969. New research shows a significant reduction in fatalities could be achieved by lowering the limit to .05 — something Ireland has done, leading to a 50 per cent reduction in impaired-driving deaths.
The new Irish law also resulted in a 65 per cent decrease in DUI-related criminal charges, which no doubt appeals to the justice minister as she grapples with the issue of courtroom backlogs and Supreme Court-imposed limits on trial delays.
The business case for .05 is sound, despite what some restaurant industry advocates claim. Besides, most jurisdictions — every province but Quebec, actually — already have non-criminal penalties in place for drivers whose blood-alcohol level measures between .05 and the Criminal Code limit of .08.
To recap, then: restaurants were going to expire en masse when smoking was outlawed. They didn’t. Bars with patios were going to be devastated when forward-thinking provinces (not this one) extended the smoking ban to outdoor spaces. They weren’t. The hospitality industry was going to take a hit when licence suspensions were handed out in some provinces to drivers who blew over .05. It didn’t.
Humans are incredibly adaptable and eagerly interactive beings. People will adjust their behaviour — except, lamentably, for those less-evolved fools who will continue to drive drunk regardless of blood-alcohol limits — and carry on with their social lives.
Valentine’s Day will survive .05. Hallmark will continue to thrive at .05. Vineyards, one suspects, will still do a brisk business, in February and beyond. Romance isn’t going to die as a result of a lowered blood-alcohol limit.
But perhaps fewer people will.