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Mixed reactions follow Saskatchewan government’s plan to allow drinking in the park

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Mixed reactions follow Saskatchewan government’s plan to allow drinking in the park
While other cities are unsure of what its plans are, the City of Saskatoon is prepared to allow public consumption according to Ward 1 councillor Darren Hill – Dec 7, 2022

Excitement and uncertainness continue to build in the province as the Saskatchewan government is expecting to pass amendments to the Alcohol and Gaming Regulation Act, allowing municipalities to control if people are permitted to drink in outdoor public places.

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) did a poll after the similar legislation failed in the spring sitting. The poll heard from municipalities around the province asking if their municipality would like the ability to allow alcohol consumption in outdoor public places.

According to SUMA, 41 per cent of respondents said yes and close to 59 per cent said no.

SUMA cited concerns that bylaw enforcement and policing costs would be too great. “What we are understanding is the cost for both would fall on our hometowns and our municipalities,” says Randy Goulden, SUMA president.

“They are concerned about public intoxication. Many of these will be in parks where children and family’s will be interacting,” Goulden adds. “Another concern we heard was the potential for a patchwork of bylaws, so what you would be able to do in one community would be against the bylaws in another.”

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These concerns aren’t uncommon. The B.C. government introduced similar legislation before the pandemic and consulted with organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Tracy Crawford is a regional manager for MADD covering Western Canada.  She helped provide consultation to the B.C. government along with municipalities on practicing safe public consumption.

“We definitely requested that they increase police enforcement. Just making sure they are going around the parks to ensure everything is safe, that people are conducting themselves properly.” said Crawford.

MADD also wanted the bylaw officers to be properly trained in dealing with people drinking in public. The parks featured increased reminders of the dangers of drinking and driving and encouraged people to find alternate travel arrangements if they plan on drinking.

“Educating people at the parks. Having prominent signs telling people if you see somebody that you think has over consumed. Call 9-11,” added Crawford.

While other cities are unsure of what its plans are, the City of Saskatoon is prepared to allow public consumption according to Ward 1 councillor Darren Hill.

“We are looking forward to the legislation to come forward from the provincial government. We have yet to develop our own procedures and protocols on how it will roll out,” said Hill. “But I believe the majority of council is supportive of it.”

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Regarding concerns over policing and enforcement, Saskatoon implemented its parks use bylaw. It was introduced to address issues that were happening to parks in the morning.

“It gave the police the power to ask people what they were doing in the park after midnight for example.”

Councillor Hill believes these ‘tools’ could be repurposed to address issues of enforcement.

Saskatoon is hoping to steal some homework from other municipalities.

“We want to bring back some best examples from what has been learned by municipalities like Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver that have already done pilots like this. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” said Hill.

The province is hoping to pass the proposed amendments in the spring sitting of the new year.

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