Liquor sales bylaw repealed after brief discussion

“We need to attack this from a different perspective.” Coun. Tim Falkiner

It took only 10 minutes for town council to repeal the contentious business hours bylaw that restricts liquor sales in Ponoka.

Coun. Loanna Gulka was the only one to speak against the decision. She said council did not take enough time to see if the bylaw is effective.

“I truly believe that I don’t think that this council has given the bylaw enough time to prove itself or disprove itself,” said Gulka.

Councillors Teri Underhill and Carla Prediger both said they have put much thought into the bylaw.

“I have talked to store owners. I have talked to the RCMP. I have struggled day and night,” said Underhill.

“I feel that I have given a ton of time and thought into this,” said Prediger.

Her only disappointment was over the low turnout at the recent public meeting discussing liquor sales and public safety in Ponoka.

Mayor Rick Bonnett said he was not fully in favour of the business hours bylaw but apologized for suggesting it be waived during the Ponoka Stampede.

“I’m going to basically say that I made the mistake even bringing up that amendment at that time.”

“The one thing I guess we can do is monitor the situation and how our community reacts,” he added.

Coun. Tim Falkiner has been opposed to the bylaw from the day he became councillor. He reiterated his previous argument that the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission regulated liquor sales and municipalities should not be involved.

He suggests there are bigger issues of alcohol addictions that need to be considered. “We need to attack this from a different perspective.”

Council would be further ahead in fighting these battles if it worked closely with neighboring councils and creating dialogue over addiction issues, explained Falkiner.

Coun. Mark Yaworski recused himself from the meeting and Coun. Sandra Lyon was away so the vote was 4-1 in favour of the repeal.

Letters to council

There were four letters to council that were not read at the March 26 public meeting, three of them were in favour of keeping the business hours bylaw and one was in favour of repealing it.

One letter in favour of the bylaw from Robert Morris states people should be able to plan properly when it comes to buying liquor. He made this argument: “By re-examining the liquor bylaw, it communicates to me that there is pressure by a few business owners that want to sell liquor at all hours.”

Speaking again in favour of restricting liquor sales was Rob McArthur who sent his letter late in the day on March 26. He said he was not a big advocate of the bylaw but stressed it is still young: “How can we effectively determine if the (by)law was successful if we wish to scrap it before conclusive data and results have been collected over an appropriate amount of time?”

For Marg Derksen, restricting sales is a matter of safety. While the bylaw was in effect, she stated she was against allowing late liquor sales during the Ponoka Stampede after 11 p.m. “…Sometimes later there were screaming tires and roaring engines all hours.”

Speaking in favour of repealing the bylaw was former resident Wayne Thompson. He suggested council should not try and dictate issues such as morality, social conscience and common sense. “These values and principles are created within the family unit.”