It should be the drunk tank for hammered drivers crossing our border, says Alberta’s main anti-drunk-driving lobby group.

Eloise Leckie, president of People Against Impaired Driving, said yesterday the group would back customs officers’ bid to arrest and pen drunk drivers as they cross the border.

“If customs have the right to stop someone with drugs or a weapon then why not someone who’s an impaired driver? What the hell’s the difference? It all endangers the community,” Leckie said.

Two years ago Ottawa approved Bill C-18, giving customs officers broader arrest powers, but will implement it in less than a quarter of Canada’s 147 ports of entry and only one Alberta border crossing.

“What will happen is people will know which crossing to take if they want to drive into Canada drunk,” Gerry Filek, Custom Excise Union spokesman, said, adding that in Alberta it’s mostly Americans driving into Canada that were the problem. In Ontario the problem was mostly Canadians returning drunk from the States.

Colette Gentes-Hawn, spokesman for Canada Customs and Revenue Minister Martin Cauchon, said there wasn’t enough money to train all of Canada’s 3,000 customs officers to arrest and detain people.

“It’s a lot of money for additional training and proper facilities at the border crossing. It’s a money issue,” Gentes-Hawn said.

Ottawa will sink $19 million into implementation of Bill C-18 over the next three years.

“The 32 ports that will have trained customs officers over the next three years represent crossings accounting for 82% of visitors,” Gentes-Hawn said.

Filek said it would cost an extra $10 million to train all Canada’s customs officers. Presently they can only bust people for Customs Act offences like smuggling and carrying contraband.

If they suspect a drunk driver has entered Canada they alert police.

“Visitor traffic is up, we processed 110 million people last year,” Filek said. “There is an increase in people crossing with guns, drugs and smuggling and they are getting more violent. And the flow of drunk drivers never stops.”

Canada Customs stats show in the past two years they’ve encountered 8,500 suspected drink drivers, 200 suspected child abductors and 2,000 wanted felons.

“The hidden agenda here is they want to de-staff ports and create an open border,” Filek said.

Leckie said PAID would contact other anti-impaired-driving lobby groups to push for 100% of customs officers to be trained in criminal arrest and detention.

“Drunk driving is the number 1 cause of criminal death in Canada and they say there’s not enough money. It’s ridiculous,” Leckie said.

Filek said customs officers would start reporting to the media every time a drunk driver passed into Canada.