REGINA -The provincial government is once again re-introducing legislation to pave the way for municipalities and park authorities to designate outdoor parks for consumption of alcohol.
On Monday the government introduced legislation to amend the Alcohol and Gaming Regulation Act, 1997, bringing in several changes to liquor regulations designed to remove restrictions. According to a news release they include:
1. Providing municipalities and park authorities discretion to designate outdoor public places such as parks for consumption of beverage alcohol by individuals of legal drinking age.
According to SLGA Minister Lori Carr in speaking to reporters, municipalities will make the final determination.
“As opposed to us saying, ‘this is going to be the new rule, and you’re going to have to deal with it,’ we’re going to let them decide what’s right for their community,” said Carr.
Carr told reporters municipalities will have the opportunity to draft their rules the way they want, if they feel it’s appropriate to allow alcohol in a park. If they don’t want that to happen, they don’t have to, she said.
She said municipalities who decide whether to allow that permitting “will know whether people living in that community will be able to handle that responsibility.”
2. The regulations also will be simplifying recorking provisions for permittees. Right now you can recork a bottle of wine, but Carr said this would cover requests like ciders and beers.
3. The legislation will allow homemade beer, wine and cider to be served at family events that are permitted with a special occasion permit, including products manufactured at a U-Brew or U-Vin facility.
According to the province, currently you can make your own wine or beer and serve it at a private function such as a family supper. Right now a function requiring a special occasion permit needs to purchase one from a retail outlet, and currently you cannot serve any home-prepared alcohol at an event requiring a special permit, such as weddings. The province states the changes brought in will allow home brewed alcohol to be served as long as it is free of charge.
4. The legislation also eliminates a requirement that applicants publish intentions to obtain a new liquor permit in local newspapers.
These moves by the province to allow alcohol in public parks had been previously introduced by the former SLGA Minister Jim Reiter during the final week of the 2022 spring session. But the original bill ultimately died on the order paper after the opposition NDP made it known they wanted further consultations with stakeholders.
The NDP seem much more amenable to the changes this time around. Opposition SLGA Critic Nathaniel Teed told reporters he welcomes “any legislation that modernizes legislation on the books,” and supported allowing municipalities to opt in and opt out.
Teed said his colleagues had been “engaging with stakeholders all summer long, and we are confident with those conversations that we can look at this legislation. Of course, we will want to put some comments on the record, look at it in committee.”
As for the decision by the NDP not to proceed swiftly to passing the legislation last spring, Teed said “we’re not here to rubber stamp bills. We’re here to review them and engage with stakeholders all summer long.”
He noted there had been concerns raised in municipalities with high volumes of addictions or mental health issues. Some of those municipalities may not jump on board, he said.
Carr confirmed there has been discussions and consultations with stakeholders, including municipalities. She also said it was municipalities that had come forward to request the changes.
In response to worries that loosening the regulations might create potentially dangerous situations with more people drinking and driving, Carr was not too concerned.
“I really don’t think it’s any different now from someone going to a restaurant or a bar and consuming alcohol. We expect everybody to get a safe ride home and do the responsible thing.”
Regarding provincial parks, this rule change could potentially pave the way provincial parks to allow alcohol consumption on their public spaces at some point. But according to the province, this would be a separate decision by government’s Parks, Culture and Sport ministry.
It also seems unlikely to happen. The indication from Minister Carr is the provincial parks have been “pretty stringent on their use of alcohol in the parks” and she didn’t see them changing that.
The expectation is the bill will ultimately be passed during the spring sitting in time for the summer of 2023.