Alberta's Bill 2 relaxes laws around drinking in parks
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2020 3:32PM MST Last Updated Thursday, February 27, 2020 4:36PM MST
EDMONTON -- The Alberta government is introducing a series of changes to the province's liquor laws, including relaxing rules around drinking in parks.
Bill 2 -- the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Amendment Act, 2020 -- includes five amendments was introduced in the legislature on Wednesday afternoon by Red Tape Reduction Associate Minister Grant Hunter.
"This legislation is about modernizing aspects of the Act by cleaning up complicated and unnecessary requirements ... and clearing the way for responsible drinking in parks," Hunter told reporters.
"This is concept of getting out of the way of the fun of adults having a beer or some alcohol in parks."
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The bill also includes four other changes:
- Eliminates the rare prospect of municipalities or Metis Settlements to hold a vote when receiving a first application for liquor licences.
- Allows Alberta Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis to impose conditions on licensees even if they haven't been reported for a violation
- Removes a prohibition area around Cardston County and parts of County of Warner Number 5 in southern Alberta.
- Clarifies that liquor is permitted to be used a prize in raffles.
The Opposition responded to the bill, calling it "little more than an attempt to justify the $10-million budget of the Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction."
"It slightly expands opportunities for Albertans to enjoy a beverage, but much of this work was already completed through policy and did not require new legislation," tweeted NDP red tape reduction critic Christian Nielsen.
"It does nothing to create new market access or shelf space for Alberta’s craft brewers and distillers."
Last June, the province allowed drinking in 14 provincial picnic sites across Alberta, provided it was consumed with food. Prior to the new legislation,
Once passed, Bill 2 would apply to all parks and give park owners the discretion to allow drinking or not minus the food requirement. In parks that allow drinking, alcohol would be consumed in "clearly marked areas."
"This amendment is about giving responsible adults the ability to enjoy a drink in our beautiful provincial parks and other parks," said Hunter. "We don’t think we need to be prescriptive on adults."
“There will be some people that make bad decisions but we have laws for that.”
Bill 2 eliminates the need for municipalities and Metis Settlements to hold a general vote before granting a first liquor licence.
The government said such votes are rare but are costly and time consuming when they happen.
Hunter said the bill will "save municipalities and Metis settlements time and money while allowing them more autonomy."
PROHIBITION AREA REMOVED
Bill 2 ends a prohibition area in existence in Cardston County and portion of the County of Warner Number 5, both in southern Alberta near Lethbridge.
“We are making our legislation uniform across the province," said Hunter.
Hunter added that the change does not mean that liquor sales will be introduced in the region.
Bill 2 allows the AGLC to put conditions on a licence once it's been granted, even if there have been no violations reported.
"It’s for situations where law enforcement has brought to our attention licenced premises that may have a high degree of incidents of violence, where there have been weapons brought into licenced premises, where public safety is an issue," said Dave Berry with AGLC.
Berry added that adding conditions was a "last resort" and that compliance from businesses with liquor licenses is "exceptionally high."
He gave the example of adding a coat check at a bar as a means to reduce weapons inside as an example of a possible licensing condition.
While not specified in law, liquor is legally permitted to serve as a raffle prize in Alberta.
"The Act was not explicit about this," read a government release.
Bill 2 clarifies that using booze as a raffle prize is consistent with both the law and AGLC policy.