Consuming alcohol now legal in 27 Toronto parks

Sep 14, 2023

From Aug. 2 to Oct. 9, individuals aged 19 years and older can legally drink alcoholic drinks in specific Toronto parks as part of a pilot program created by the city. The project was approved by the Toronto city council on July 19, and city councillors chose whether or not to opt into the program for their wards and also selected the parks to include in the program.

“Toronto is the first city in Ontario to introduce a pilot program of this kind,” said Councillor Shelley Carroll in her interview with The Globe and Mail. “We know that all eyes are upon us across Ontario.”

According to Carroll, the pilot project is based on experiences in other Canadian cities, as well as public health guidance, since it is known that many Toronto residents already drink alcohol in parks. Furthermore, Toronto city officials have previously noted that most people consume alcohol in parks in a respectful and responsible manner.

“It’s a great initiative,” said Councillor Chris Moise, one of the city councillors who proposed the pilot, during an interview with CBC News.  “We’ve had pilot projects across the country, you know, in Montreal, in Calgary, Edmonton, and even Vancouver as well, and those pilots went very well. I anticipate that they will go well here in Toronto.”

Moreover, in a statement provided to CBC Toronto, the city said, “The pilot locations were selected based on a number of criteria including washroom (whether permanent or portable) and drinking water access.” The city also noted that additional garbage bins will be added to participating parks on an as- needed basis. 

However, Toronto Councillor James Pasternak expressed some concerns regarding the program. “It comes with certain risks,” he said in an interview with CBC Toronto. “What do you do in a drinking zone? You continue to drink. So you probably take more than you should to these locations and you consume more than you should and that is the risk.” 

In addition, Pasternak was also concerned the city doesn’t have the resources to properly enforce rules around drinking in parks. “We don’t have the resources for cleanup. We do not have any of the legal tools to detect or identify underage drinking. We don’t have the tools to watch intoxication with people who get into a vehicle,” he said. 

The pilot program is enforced by its bylaw enforcement officers, while its rules prevent alcohol from being consumed within two metres of certain areas, including playgrounds, wading pools, and outdoor swimming pools. As well, serving and selling alcohol in parks remains prohibited.

The city is currently gathering data from the pilot project, while the council plans to make a decision regarding alcohol consumption in parks in the future.