Opinion Column

Time to legalize booze at the beach

Daniel Fontaine

By Daniel Fontaine, Dialogue with a Difference

Vancouverites enjoy the warm weather playing volleyball at Kits Beach  during the Canada long weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monday July 1, 2013. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Vancouverites enjoy the warm weather playing volleyball at Kits Beach during the Canada long weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monday July 1, 2013. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Tough to beat July in Vancouver when it comes to our weather. If everything goes according to plan, we are blessed with dry and sunny days — the kind of weather that encourages many of us to pack our bags and head to the beach.

For many of you, that trip to Spanish Banks at sunset has also included an illegal substance or two. No, I’m not talking about marijuana or some other illicit drug. Rather, it’s the six-pack of pomegranate coolers or bottle of pinot grigio that might land you in hot water.

Unlike some other jurisdictions, it is currently against the law to consume alcohol in parks and on our beaches. It is widely believed that liberalizing liquor laws in this way would attract unwanted hooligans and partiers to places now considered as friendly to families.

But in government’s attempt to protect us from ourselves, it is making potential crooks out of law-abiding citizens who merely want the pleasure of consuming a glass of wine on a warm summer evening.

There is much to be said for the theory that stricter liquor laws may actually be counter-productive when it comes to how society treats the consumption of booze.

In sections of Western Europe, where wine consumption is just a part of daily life, they seem to have struck a much better balance in the way they interact with alcohol.

Unlike in North America, you can actually openly consume a glass or two in your local park and the police simply tip their hat as they walk by. By many accounts, they don’t have the same societal problems related to liquor consumption.

Some local police will readily admit they also generally lend a blind eye when it comes to liquor in public places. They tend to focus more on complaints of unruly drunkards, or at high-profile events, rather than proactively clamping down on average citizens sipping on their glass of wine.

During the next year, B.C.’s Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton will undertake consultations on modernizing some of our antiquated liquor laws. Part of that consultation will include the potential of legalizing drinking on the beach.

As the minister readily admits, this bit of policy work is no easy feat. For every citizen who thinks a drink on the beach is their constitutional right, there are many others who would beg to differ.

So as you pack your next picnic basket, consider the fact that your choice of liquid refreshments might be greatly expanded by next summer.

Daniel Fontaine is a local political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @Fontaine_D.

 

 

 

 

 

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Do you think the provincial government should change liquor laws to allow for drinking on the beach and in public parks?

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