In the same week that the City of North Vancouver decided to give the go-ahead to allowing alcohol consumption in select public places, Vancouver City Council shot down a motion for a similar proposal within its boundaries.
The motion introduced came from Councillors Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe. It looked at designating public, City-owned spaces for the “responsible consumption of alcohol.”
The councillors also cited a report earlier this month that recommended using public spaces for eating and gathering, as well as closing side streets to create plazas.
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“We’ve heard from folks about the need to connect socially while physically distancing,” Fry tweeted. “With apartments or where patio access isn’t an option, a few drinks with friends becomes an equity issue.”
His motion ended in a 5-5 tie, with Mayor Kennedy Stewart absent from the meeting, meaning it was unable to move forward, as a majority vote was needed to do so.
During the meeting, Councillor Jean Swanson cited a presentation to council by Dr. Patricia Daly last week in expressing her concerns and reasons for voting against.
“Alcohol affects all income groups in terms of health, not in terms of how alcohol laws are enforced,” she said. “All the issues that have been happening in the last week show us that we have to deal with the inequitable enforcement in a whole range of areas; we can’t just deal with it in terms of drinking booze on beaches.”
Swanson also noted that she’s seen reports “around ‘civilized drinking’ in Europe, and the issues they have with alcoholism are way higher.”
She added she has watched members of her family “who start with responsibly drinking one beer on the beach, and then five years later they’re drinking three beers on the beach, and after 10 years they’re drinking a six-pack on the beach, and after 30 years, they’re full-blown alcoholics.”
“The health part is important and as elected people, we should be doing what the science says around alcohol, smoking, and other types of drugs,” she added.
During her presentation, Daly said studies show that 25% of Canadians were drinking more, primarily due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She also noted that BC had the highest alcohol consumption per capita.
Councillor Colleen Hardwick said she was torn, and said that like Swanson she was “inclined” to listen to the science.
“While I personally may enjoy a glass of wine at the park, or at the beach, that’s not where we start to get into difficulty,” she said.
Noting that she lives near a park, Hardwick said she’s “watched the paddy-wagons come around, and I’ve watched really a lot of over-the-top inappropriate behaviour, almost always accompanied by excessive consumption of alcohol.”
While the motion was shot down, a motion by Councillor Christine Boyle last month, proposing that the City reaching out to the Parks Board in a step to “legalize alcohol consumption in Vancouver parks and beaches” was passed, with Swanson the lone vote against.
After a couple of hours of (sometimes interesting, sometimes tedious) debate, this motion passed at Council.
— Christine Boyle (@christineeboyle) June 3, 2020