Bill would allow Alberta municipalities to set entertainment districts with public drinking

·3 min read
A new bill would allow municipalities to create entertainment districts where adults may consume alcohol outside. It would allow food trucks or kiosk vendors to sell  drinks. (Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters - image credit)
A new bill would allow municipalities to create entertainment districts where adults may consume alcohol outside. It would allow food trucks or kiosk vendors to sell drinks. (Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters - image credit)

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis is moving to allow private businesses to sell cannabis online and loosen liquor rules.

A new omnibus bill tabled in the Alberta legislature Thursday would allow businesses with existing bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores in the province to also sell online.

Should Bill 80, the Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, 2021 (No. 2), clear the legislature, the AGLC would give up its role as the sole legal online retailer for cannabis within 90 days of opening up the market.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said private retailers would also be able to sell some glassware and apparel in such online stores. He hopes the move makes a dent in the illegal drug market.

"We would expect that a more robust online presence in the legal trade would have real potential to displace some of the illicit trade that takes place now," Toews said on Thursday.

If the bill passes, the AGLC would shut down its website within 90 days of others being allowed to sell cannabis online. The commission would forego about $200,000 in annual sales.

Craig Ryan/CBC
Craig Ryan/CBC

Bill 80 seeks to amend nine pieces of legislation governing the insurance industry, post-secondary institutions, oil and gas, justice, liquor and cannabis, and more.

If it passes as drafted, municipalities would also be empowered to create "entertainment districts" — zones where adults can drink alcohol in public areas beyond bars and restaurants.

Toews said it could open the door for kiosks and food trucks to serve alcohol.

"We've received a significant amount of interest and enthusiasm from a variety of parties and believe this initiative presents an exciting opportunity to attract and support tourism and create positive economic spinoffs for surrounding businesses," he said.

The bill proposes Albertans be free to serve homemade beer, wine and cider for no charge at private parties, such as weddings.

Religious groups could also use sacramental wine in ceremonies without approval from the AGLC.

Human rights commission changes

Government also seeks to make changes to the Alberta Human Rights Act to continue to tackle a backlog of complaints.

As of last March, the human rights commission had a backlog of more than 2,000 cases. Although previous changes to address delays shortened the time it was taking to resolve the cases, government officials say it's still taking an average of 123 days to reach a resolution.

The bill would allow electronic document filing at the commission, appoint a deputy director to help manage complaints, allow the director to send complaints directly to a tribunal and change the appeal process for tribunal decisions.

"It's time we made it easier and faster for Albertans to have their human rights affirmed and upheld," Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction Tanya Fir said Thursday.

To make it easier to deal with orphaned oil and gas sites, the bill would allow the energy minister to appoint someone to take responsibility for an abandoned lease. Currently, that process must go through court.

The bill also makes official an earlier government commitment to delay its move to potentially limit where some doctors can practise in Alberta.

A law passed in 2019 allows the health minister to tell doctors where they can and can't work. It was one of several points of contention between doctors and the provincial government, who have yet to negotiate a new agreement.

That law was to take effect April 1, 2022. The bill would put it off indefinitely, as a compromise while the government negotiates with doctors.

Toews said Thursday he has no timeline for reaching a new tentative agreement with the Alberta Medical Association. AMA members voted to reject the last proposed agreement in March.

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