Cities and organizations in Saskatchewan are reacting to news this week that the provincial government wants to allow municipalities and park authorities to permit alcohol consumption in outdoor public settings.
On Monday, the Saskatchewan Party government proposed amendments to Bill 86 — Alcohol & Gaming Regulation (Outdoor Public Places) Amendment Act, 2022, that would allow people of legal drinking age to consume alcohol if municipalities and parks choose to allow it.
In Saskatoon, Mayor Charlie Clark said the legislation has lots of steps to be accomplished in order to get through and be passed.
However, the mayor shared that his favourite drink to have in the park would be bourbon if the bill goes through.
“We have beautiful spaces here, and if we can find more and more safe ways for people to enjoy them, it’s good for everybody’s quality of life,” said Clark.
The preliminary step comes after several Canadian cities, such as Edmonton and Calgary, have done successful pilot projects within city limits when it comes to allowing alcohol consumption in outdoor public spaces.
Members of the hospitality sector say they would be pleased to see the bill go ahead.
Jim Bence, president and CEO of Hospitality Saskatchewan, called it good news and said he has not heard any objections to it from his membership.
He added that the sector has been advocating for this for a while now.
“I think we see it as kind of an opportunity to check up or catch up to other jurisdictions in Canada or around the world,” Bence said.
However, not everyone is completely onboard with the idea.
Bob Hawkins, a Regina city councillor, said he is concerned about the negative impacts that could result from the bill’s passing.
“Municipalities will need some time to decide first of all whether the public in the municipality will support it, and secondly whether regulations governing responsible drinking could be developed,” explained Hawkins.
“It’s not a radical change, but there need to be regulations about how alcohol can be consumed and means for enforcing those regulations.”
As for how the decision is viewed by the province’s smaller and rural municipalities, Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said he believes having the choice of one or the other is important.
He said this would help Saskatchewan’s rural municipalities if they decide to opt-out.
“We always have said that we want our RMs to have autonomy to be able to make their own choices, and this is actually what the province is doing,” Orb stated.
While municipalities and organizations have differing initial opinions on the presented amendments, they do all note there are issues that will need to be worked out if the legislation is passed.
However, it will be at least a few months before the rules are changed.
Government needed all members in the chamber to agree to the bill’s amendments on Tuesday in order for it to be passed before the current session concludes on Thursday, but Saskatchewan NDP members chose to not support the bill after they expressed hesitation towards it during Monday’s proceedings.
The bill can be passed in the fall session without the opposition’s support.