Wine in the park? Edmonton may follow province's lead and relax rules for alcohol consumption

·3 min read

Edmonton may allow a glass or two of wine, beer or other alcoholic beverage in designated park sites in the near future, after city council agreed to explore the issue Monday.

Coun. Jon Dziadyk suggested that the city consult the public and identify sites in municipal parks that would be appropriate for people to consume alcohol.

Dziadyk put forward the idea in a motion, which also asks city administration to provide a report summarizing the results of the engagement and costs and time lines for installing necessary signs.

"The public's mixed on this," Dziadyk said at the meeting. "Alcohol consumption doesn't always have to lead to drunkeness and I'd say it shouldn't."

"These are new rules that have been permitted to us by the province so I think it's appropriate to explore it."

The Alberta government has allowed people to drink alcohol in provincial picnic sites since June 2020 under the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Amendment Act.

The government started to relax the rules around alcohol consumption in parks in 2019 by allowing drinking in 14 provincial parks.

Christina Hodgson, a lawyer with the city, explained that recent amendments to the provincial act allow municipalities to specify drinking areas within their boundaries.

"Now it's up to us to decide what is designated as allowing alcohol consumption and until we designate, there is no alcohol consumption allowed in city-owned parks," Hodgson said.

Hodgson said the provincial regulations specified the need for people to be eating food while drinking, and required them to be at tables and places to sit.

"If a picnic site is not designated by the city with signage, then the implication is, there is no alcohol allowed in that area."

Dziadyk said that's another reason to consult the public and come up with a municipal approach.

"It seems to make sense to provide the public with some clarity and expectations on it," Dziadyk said.

Coun. Michael Walters supported the motion.

"For anyone who's been to Europe, you know you can drink in any park, pretty much, no problem, I don't see what the problem is," Walters said. "It's part of the road we have to travel to free the people."

The motion passed 11 to 1, with Coun. Tony Caterina voting against. Before it passed, several councillors raised potential issues with the idea.

Coun. Aaron Paquette said the concept has to be proven for the Edmonton region.

"You can say 'hey, a buddy of mine went to Paris and he drank in the field in front of the Eiffel Tower,' well great, it's a completely different culture around alcohol there than we might have here."

Coun. Bev Esslinger wanted clarification on how — and where — picnic sites would be defined.

"I've already gotten emails from mothers and grandmothers about this," she said, asking if the city can specify designated areas not be around playgrounds.

Rob Smyth, deputy manager of citizen services, said ultimately it will be up to council or administration to decide where the sites are chosen.

@natashariebe