Public drinking coming to Canada

In recent months, many Canadian cities have proposed changing laws around public alcohol consumption. Due to the significant impact of COVID-19 and implementation of social distancing measures on the hospitality industry, government officials have been pushing to relax patio regulations and alcohol laws to help restaurants and bars stay in business. 

Across many Canadian cities and municipalities, alcohol law reforms are currently being made. For instance, Toronto fast-tracked approvals for bar and restaurant patios to expand onto streets, sidewalks, and nearby parks. Ottawa plans to permit food trucks in parking lots adjacent to city parks, making a significant change to its normally strict regulations. In addition, Quebec City now allows alcohol in urban parks when it is accompanied by a meal.

There are also some indications that such changes will become permanent. In Alberta, the government has permitted restaurants to include alcohol in takeout and delivery orders, which will likely remain after the end of the pandemic.

“Although the changes were made during the onset of the pandemic, it is part of government’s broader red tape reduction plan and was expedited to support businesses through these challenging times.”

Charlotte Taillon, Press Secretary for the Office of the Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction, to Global News.

In the beginning of June, North Vancouver became the first municipality in British Columbia to allow alcohol consumption in some of its parks and plazas. According to Linda Buchanan, the mayor of North Vancouver and a former public health worker, the COVID-19 pandemic has led government officials to consider doing things differently. 

“This is about taking a picnic to the park, or getting your takeout and your local craft brew and going to the park with your family and friends and enjoying that in a civilized way,”

Linda Buchanan, Mayor of North Vancouver in her interview with National Post.

Meanwhile, White Rock municipality council is also considering permitting alcohol consumption at the waterfront, in addition to installing temporary picnic benches in the park and other locations in the city to help local businesses survive the impact of social distancing.

However, Vancouver City Council has rejected the motion to allow alcohol consumption in select public places. During the council meeting, Councillor Jean Swanson referred to the presentation to council created by Dr. Patricia Daly when voicing reasons for voting against the motion.

“Alcohol affects all income groups in terms of health, not in terms of how alcohol laws are enforced. All the issues that have been happening in the last week show us that we have to deal with the inequitable enforcement in a whole range of areas; we can’t just deal with it in terms of drinking [alcohol] on beaches.”

Councillor Jean Swanson

The presentation by Dr. Daly also mentioned that according to recent scientific studies, 25% of Canadians have been drinking more alcohol, mainly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation also mentioned that BC had the highest alcohol consumption per capita in Canada.

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