Prince Albert city council received a copy of Harold Johnson’s book Firewater, and heard from Community Alcohol Strategy (CAS) members concerned about changes to to the City’s liquor rules during a meeting on Monday.
Brian Howell spoke on behalf of the CAS delegation at the Jan. 19 executive committee meeting.
“This book will help you perhaps better understand the social issues some of the people in our community face,” he told council. “And also why groups like ourselves are calling for a more balanced approach to regulations around alcohol consumption in Saskatchewan.”
Howell said the Community Alcohol Strategy is working to help reduce the amount of alcohol consumed in the city and to encourage other ways of having fun.
“I should emphasize that we’re not trying to do away with drinking,” Howell said. “But with education and promotion, (we’re trying to) find better ways to manage it.”
In November, 2021, the provincial government said it would allow restaurants that have a liquor permit to sell alcohol with takeout and delivery orders.
Previously, they needed a separate home delivery permit to deliver alcohol. They are not allowed to be a full-scale liquor retailer or have displays and in-person shopping.
“The thing with alcohol is the more access, the more problems,” said Howell.
He equated it to the issue with gun violence in the US and linked access with use, or misuse.
“Countries that have more guns, like the United States, have more gun violence and death. It’s the same with alcohol and it’s the same with drugs. The more access you have, the easier it is to get and the more you’re going to find as more people use them, is problems,” he said.
He also raised concerns over the hours of the day alcohol is for sale in town.
“You can buy alcohol in Prince Albert from 8:00 o’clock in the morning to 3:00 o’clock in the morning,” Howell said.
He has seen people sitting and waiting to buy alcohol when some stores open. He suggested that 11:00 am until 10:00 pm is a reasonable amount of time.
Some of the rules are made by the province and the City has limited powers to change those rules.
“At the same time we can lobby the province and work on this alcohol and taxation culture that seems to be rising,” Howell said.
Howell’s position was supported by Mayor Greg Dionne, who has openly criticized the amount of access.
Dionne told Howell that the City is only allowed to have 10 liquor licenses and they are all in use so no more can be given out.
“The problem with governments and alcohol is that governments are addicted to the revenue,” said Dionne.
He also said that one issue in Northern Saskatchewan is illegal reselling, so it should be possible to ban one buyer from purchasing 20 mickeys of hard alcohol.
“The number one issue in the north is bootleggers,” Dionne said.
Councillor Tony Head wrapped up the discussion saying he would like to see no liquor stores downtown as that is where much of the vulnerable population is.