Almost a year after being passed, the liquor hours bylaw appears to be on the verge of extinction.
Another request was made to town council Dec. 10 to waive the business hours bylaw on New Year’s Eve. This would allow the sale of liquor after 10 p.m. from liquor stores and off-sales by liquor outlets. This second request – the first was made and accepted by council for Almost Midnight Madness – was accepted unanimously despite concern from some councillors they still do not have enough information requested in November.
Coun. Mark Yaworski recused himself from the discussion on the basis of conflict of interest and Coun. Loanna Gulka was not in attendance, which left five councillors to discuss the request.
Coun. Carla Prediger asked CAO Brad Watson. “What has happened since the bylaw?”
She wants to see statistics on how restricting liquor sales has kept Ponoka residents safe, not just from the RCMP but also from Alberta Health Services.
Despite not having all the information, Watson has contacted Staff Sgt. Cameron Chisholm to try and get more information. He also met with staff at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre Dec. 5. “They said ‘We don’t know what we can do but we will do some homework and get back to you.’”
A formal request to Alberta Health Services (AHS) could take too long, added Mayor Rick Bonnett. Councillors received a package of details on the day of the meeting and Prediger did not feel the information was presented well.
“There’s a lot of speaking to stats but no real proof of stats and that’s my concern,” she said.
The information received appears to be anecdotal in nature with comments that Prediger said are more in the line of “I feel there is…I think there is.”
“When we base decisions and bylaws that have people with their concerns brought to our attention…I’d like to make sure we have due diligence,” she added.
Watson has spoken with Chisholm about this issue and has also spoken to Don Voaklander, researcher for the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research at the University of Alberta. Voaklander was a presenter when the bylaw was first discussed by the former council. He believes Voaklander will have details that AHS may not be able to get in a timely manner.
Watson does not have a date when this information will be available and Bonnett suggests councillors should check in January.
Coun. Tim Falkiner does not feel they will have clear data showing an improvement in community safety. “We’re asking these guys for more information to provide stats…They couldn’t answer the questions that were put to them at the meeting January 15 (2013). Why are we wasting our time asking them for questions now?”