Possible rule changes coming for public alcohol consumption in parks: Sask. govt.

The Sask. government is looking to provide municipalities and park authorities with the discretion to allow alcohol consumption in public parks.

“Across the country, (some) provinces are allowing the municipalities to allow some alcohol in parks,” said Jim Reiter, Minister Responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA). “Under parameters that the cities choose to follow so that they can assure its safe.”

The amendment would only affect municipal parks, with no rule changes for provincial parks.

The city of Saskatoon previously passed a motion this past winter asking the province to consider changing the legislation.

“We think municipalities are in the best position to determine if it’s safe, if they have adequate security,” Reiter said.

The proposed amendment is currently in its first reading, and if passed unanimously in the house this week, it could be in effect for this coming summer.

“It’s a relatively minor amendment,” Reiter explained. “It’s not mandatory for a municipality. Those who would like to do it can certainly do it. Those that don’t can stay with the status quo.”

Some park users, like Calvin Serelo, are in favour of the proposed change.

“Oh yeah, that would be pretty cool,” he said. “It would be pretty neat to sit around here and have a beer and look at the water and the wildlife. It would be pretty neat.”

While others, like Dale Lakeman, are concerned about potential consequences of the change.

“And this public place you should have a certain decorum, right? It should be pulled back,” he explained.

“You can’t just be wild like you’re in your front room or your house watching a football game.”

For the amendment to pass, the government will need the support of the opposition.

Support that doesn’t seem likely according to NDP MLA for Regina Douglas Park, Nicole Sarauer.

“If government wanted to do this, they should have done it sooner,” she said. “Saskatoon is one municipality of many municipalities in this province. We think it is important to have that discussion and that consultation.”

In her comments, Sarauer made reference to other discussions regarding alcohol in public parks in major centres such as Toronto. She maintained that the government would have to make sure this change is actually wanted by municipalities.

“We want to make sure that municipalities want that ability,” she said. “That other organizations are supportive of municipalities having that ability rather than us just downloading that on municipalities without having that consultation.”

If the amendment is not passed during the last week of the spring session, the government is prepared to reintroduce the amendment for passage this fall.