Lifting provincial parks liquor ban may not have been wisest move

Congratulations Alberta. You can now drink in any provincial park, as of the Victoria Day long weekend. What a great feat of democracy. Cue eye roll here.

The liquor ban (in place since 2010) was lifted on the eight remaining provincial parks and will relax some regulations on some provincial parks’ day use areas later this summer.

Alberta UCP leader Jason Kenney’s move to lift the ban right before the long weekend seems like nothing more than a publicity stunt, or maybe I should call it “value signalling,” a phrase recently coined by Conservative MP Michelle Rempel in relation to Trudeau.

Perhaps Kenney, who was criticized by one columnist for fuelling his election campaign with the anger of Albertans, is attempting to soften his image by using emotion-manipulating terms like “freedom” and “pushing back.”

In the media release, Kenney and MLA Jason Nixon, the new environmental and parks minister, call the move “pushing back against the excesses of the nanny state and the ‘War on Fun.’”

It goes on to say “It’s time to lift prohibition-era restrictions around liquor consumption in Alberta and give responsible adults the freedom to act responsibly.”

The problem with this statement is the part where it says, “give responsible adults …”

Actually no, you didn’t just give the freedom to drink in provincial parks to responsible adults, unless you are somehow screening all park users — you gave it to all Albertans of drinking age.

If you want to know if all Albertans are equally responsible when it comes to drinking, just sit in court for a morning and see how many impaired driving cases come through. Don’t think Ponoka is immune from liquor issues — there were 13 incidents of federal liquor act violations in town from January to April this year and nine in rural Ponoka.

It’s also a tad-bit ironic that the lift of the ban also coincided with Canada Road Safety Week from May 14 to 20 and National Impaired Driving Enforcement Day on May 18. It seems the police have been able to identify this weekend as higher risk for impaired driving, but by all means, open the parks to liquor in the name of “cutting red tape.”

While some people can drink responsibly, other’s can’t, so doesn’t it just make sense to restrict drinking in public and in areas presumably also used by families?

I’m probably not the right person to answer that question.

As a non-drinker I can’t really see the appeal of supposedly going to enjoy the great outdoors just to get wasted and may not be able to empathize with those cheering at the relaxed rules, but I can say that with Albertans eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of some hefty promises on an aggressive schedule (the carbon tax dying by end of May, for example) the announcement of liquor bans being lifted seems fairly small potatoes, and one seemingly designed to ingratiate voters.

After only being sworn in as the 18th premier of Alberta on April 30, people are already starting to wonder how long it will take before jobs come back. Letting people party in provincial parks seems pretty paltry in comparison.

Although the new relaxed laws won’t affect Ponoka County overly much, whether or not it’s a good thing for Alberta seems dubious at best.

The aftermath, or lack thereof, of this past weekend will have to stand as evidence for or against the ban being lifted.

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