Alcohol might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but enough people enjoyed the eased restrictions during peak-COVID that Tiny Township is considering a return to those looser times.

At the recent committee of the whole meeting, Coun. Walma asked staff to go on a “fact-finding expedition” regarding the feasibility to allow alcohol in public areas, along with the pros and cons associated with such a proposal.

“This was brought about two-fold,” Walma explained. “During COVID-9, one of the things that happened (were) a lot of changes to the Liquor Licensing Act.

“There was a lot of autonomy granted (by the province) to municipalities on how we regulate alcohol in municipal areas; that was where outside of parks it included patios – extension of patios – so we can accommodate more people for local businesses to help support the local economy.

“Part of those changes included the ability for municipalities to choose whether or not they allowed open alcohol containers in their parks,” said Walma. 

Walma continued by referring to a summer pilot project being explored by Toronto for responsible personal consumption of alcohol, which would allow public drinking in certain city parks, an allowance that Walma added was legally and socially acceptable in other areas of both Canada and Europe much like marijuana usage.

“We spend a lot of money on infrastructure in our parks,” Walma noted. “We build these beautiful playgrounds for our kids, and sometimes it’s hard to find a park bench or a picnic table to sit down and watch your kids play. In the European model, it’s social time not only for the kids but the adults are able to sit there and have a pint, converse as well.”

But Walma stressed the preliminary fact-finding aspect, as he admitted he wanted to explore what other municipalities like Toronto were doing and to learn from their successes as well as mistakes.

Deputy Mayor Sean Miskimins was in full support, sharing an anecdote where a book he had recently read on Canada’s prohibition raised attention to “draconian laws” for alcohol in Ontario.

Miskimins also highlighted the ‘responsible consumption’ aspect, making reference to the Busk ‘Til Dusk event in Balm Beach which rarely raised concern from residents for the large number of attendees with alcohol present.

Coun. Kelly Helowka countered the positive aspect when he shared a personal confrontation at Balm Beach involving a person who could have accidentally dropped their held beer bottle into the shallow stones, which could have damaged feet if it had occurred. 

“If you don’t have any deterrent you have people who are irresponsible,” said Helowka, adding, “if there is no deterrent you are going to get situations like this, moreso than I think people who are secretly sipping their beer from their red cup. I think they have a tendency to behave better.”

Coun. Dave Brunelle offered that a staff report looking into the matter would need to focus more on rural placement such as the tourism area of Tiny than rely on urban results from Toronto or other metropolitan areas, citing a greater difficulty in enforcement and monitoring of rural areas by comparison.

Support also came from Mayor Dave Evans, who pointed staff direction toward several areas, first of which was the long shoreline of Tiny Township.

“If you’re responsible, then yes I don’t have a problem with you having a drink; sort of goes along with relaxation and tourism and being responsible with it,” said Evans.

Evans noted the legal liability needed to be looked at involving potential vehicle operation under the influence as an example; an accessibility component similar to the non-alcoholic sections of major sporting event locations; and reiterated the enforcement of such regulations.

With the motion carried, staff was directed to research the legal permissions and feasibility of a Tiny Township pilot project, with a report due for council by late fall.

The current municipal alcohol risk management policy is located on the recreation and community page for indoor-outdoor facilities within the township website.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 04, 2023 at 06:22

This item reprinted with permission from   Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
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