It is unfathomable how the Doug Ford government can set the stage for more alcohol consumption in Ontario, then ignore the social consequences of drinking and its larger impact on society. In a way, last week’s provincial budget was more about drinking than about any fiscal policy designed to balance the budget or spur economic growth.
A slew of changes unveiled in the budget would see bars, restaurants and golf courses selling alcohol from 9 a.m. on, instead of 11 a.m. Municipalities would also be empowered to make rules allowing drinking in public parks such as Andrew Haydon Park, Britannia Park or Walter Baker Park. (City regulations now allow drinking on city property under special permit). Rules would also be loosened to permit licensed establishments to more easily advertise “happy hour” promotions, and wineries, distilleries and breweries would have more freedom to sell drinks on their premises. And of course, there is legal tailgating, coming to a sports stadium or arena near you.
“The cornerstone of putting people first is consumer choice and convenience,” says Finance Minister Vic Fedeli. “This is why our government is taking steps to modernize the way we sell, distribute and consume alcohol in Ontario.”
It’s nice for the Ford government to talk about choice and convenience, but what about social responsibility? Policies have consequences and it is wrong for the government to open the taps, then just shrug off the grievous harm alcohol does to many of our fellow citizens – and society.
Policies have consequences and it is wrong for the government to open the taps, then just shrug off the grievous harm alcohol does to many of our fellow citizens – and society.
About 17 per cent of Ontarians self-identify as heavy drinkers, one of the lowest rates among the provinces, but still too high for comfort. Hardly a day passes without someone being killed or severely injured by a drunk driver. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), up to four Canadians are killed everyday in alcohol- or drug-related vehicle crashes. Annually, between 1,250 and 1,500 people are killed and more than 63,000 injured from drunk-driving crashes.
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