Alcohol policies across Canada receive a failing grade

Jul 5, 2023

According to the findings released in a report published by the Canadian Alcohol Policy Evaluation project (CAPE) and the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR), alcohol control policies in all 13 provinces and territories have received a failing grade.

The third and latest report evaluated alcohol control policies across Canada and concluded that provincial and federal governments can do more to reduce harm from alcohol use.

Specifically, each province and territory was evaluated based on eleven categories such as pricing, taxation, and health and safety messaging, among others.

According to the results, none of the jurisdictions received a passing grade.

“Over the last several years, reductions in minimum alcohol pricing, extended hours of sale and expanded alcohol availability through take-out and delivery have all made alcohol more accessible both financially and physically, resulting in higher consumption, and ultimately more hospitalizations and alcohol-related deaths,” says Dr. Kevin Shield, Independent Scientist, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research in a released statement.

The report findings show that Northwest Territories scored the lowest with 32%, while the highest-scoring region was Manitoba at just 44%. Furthermore, the report also evaluated the federal government on its implementation of recommendations at the federal level and received a failing score of 37%.

In terms of alcohol consumption, the Northwest Territories reported 786 standard drinks per person aged 15 and over per year, while Manitoba reported 469 on average. There were 802,023 hospital visits related to alcohol reported in 2020 and 17,098 deaths across Canada.

The CAPE’s report recommends implementing regulations that will reduce harm from alcohol through taxing, marketing, and updating criminal penalties.

“This is about more than asking individuals to consider cutting down on their drinking. Yes, that can be important, but governments need to make changes to the broader drinking environment,” said researcher Dr. Tim Naimi in a news release.

Furthermore, CAPE recommends for the federal government to increase federal sales taxes on alcohol and update the CRTC code to regulate marketing content from the alcohol industry since there are currently no mandatory examinations of alcohol ads from a third-party authority.

Other recommendations included updates to the criminal code to make it a criminal offence to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.05%, while the current limit is 0.08%.