The Saskatchewan government hopes to pass changes that will allow municipalities to allow drinking in outdoor public spaces, but the opposition says it won’t support the time change for the summer.
On Tuesday, the government will seek the support of the opposition so that the bill goes through all the stages. The government does not need opposition support to pass the bill, but it does to pass it this week.
“Through these amendments, municipalities have the ability to allow alcohol consumption in their parks, ensuring that residents can enjoy their parks in a safe and responsible manner,” said Jim Reiter, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA). said in a press release.
Reiter said discussions began last year and called the amendment “minor”.
He said the government hoped the amendments would pass in time for cities to allow drinking in place for the summer if they so wished.
Saskatoon City Council voted to ask the province to change the Public Drinking Act in December.
Reiter said the law would be an option if they want to apply for SLGA but have nothing to do.
He said the rules for drinking in provincial parks would be the “status quo”.
Reiter said those who didn’t have green spaces weren’t able to enjoy a drink outside during the pandemic.
The changes do not affect private events like weddings, which will still require an SLGA permit.
Other Canadian cities have discussed or implemented pilot programs allowing alcohol consumption in parks.
Opposition says debate must be held before bill passes
On Monday, Opposition Justice Critic Nicole Sarauer signaled that her caucus would not allow the bill to pass unanimously on Tuesday.
Sarauer said the opposition “kicked the tires” by asking for the amendments in 2021 and had heard “pretty strong comments” from those for and against and wanted the issue debated.
“Government is government, they can pass whatever legislation they want. If they really saw this as a priority for this summer, if they really wanted this to be an option for municipalities, they should have presented this week rather than the last three days we have to debate this legislation.”
Sarauer said the opposition is not against the amendment itself, but does not agree with the path taken by the government.
“We are not in favor of consent without consultation,” Sarauer said.
She said the opposition wants to “reach out” to other jurisdictions that have a policy in place to see what worked and what didn’t.
Sarauer said the government should also do more to deal with drug support in the province.
Last week Toronto City Council postponed a decision on public consumption in parks until 2023.
Calgary has expanded its program, which allows drinking at six parks. Drinking is permitted between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. in selected parks, but only at neighborhood picnic tables and large picnic sites. Sites can be booked in two-hour increments and must be away from play areas.
Edmonton expanded its program starting this month, allowing adults to have alcoholic beverages at 124 designated picnic sites in 18 parks.