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Wednesday, 21 November 2012 15:44

New initiatives needed to help lower Sask. impaired driving rates

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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As members of the Sask Party youth wing moved to support a lower drinking age, the governing party made its own moves to widen access to liquor earlier this week.

On Tuesday, government officials announced they intend to “modernize” more than 70 liquor regulations. The move to do so, according to a government news release, is to reduce red tape and create new opportunities and flexibility for businesses.
There can likely be little argument that some of the regulations being changed were rather archaic.
Take for example once the changes come into effect, hotels/motels and guest houses will be able to offer all-inclusive packages for overnight guests that include alcohol. Want to stay in the honeymoon suite? Now, patrons can have a bottle of champagne to celebrate their recent nuptials, and it can be included in the price of the room.
Another modernization includes allowing restaurants to serve alcohol to a customer without also serving a meal. Also golf courses will be able to determine the number of carts or kiosks on a course and the number of drinks to be served to patrons. This is currently restricted to one cart or kiosk per nine holes and two drinks per player, per sale. The amount of alcohol a person can bring in to Saskatchewan for personal use will also increase. How many people even knew there was a limit prior to the changes?
While a lot of these changes are positive for the business climate in Saskatchewan — the men will like the fact they will be able to enjoy a beer while taking in a wet t-shirt contest — the need for some are questionable. Why do movie theatres and spas — after applying for special use liquor permits — need to serve alcohol? And will anyone really bring their own bottle of wine to a restaurant through “Bring Your Own Wine” services that can now be offered?
 It’s fine to modernize outdated legislation, especially when it has a positive effect of creating a more friendly business environment, but the Sask Party needs to seriously consider whether lowering the drinking age from 19 to 18 is really a good decision.They also should be mindful of the message being sent to residents and the rest of the country with its actions.
None of these updates does anything to help curb impaired driving statistics, which increased for the fourth time in the last five years. Statistics Canada reports a two per cent increase in the rate of impaired driving in 2011 in Canada and Saskatchewan saw one of the largest increases in its rates at nine per cent, behind only B.C. at 15.
Earlier this year in April, Mothers Against Drunk Driving released a report that showed Saskatchewan has Canada’s worst per-capita rate of impaired driving deaths.
It’s interesting that a province that has a higher drinking age limit and the lowest legal limit for blood-alcohol content at .04 per cent would be singled out with these startling statistics. It begs the question of whether it is an enforcement issue.
It also shows there’s a need for government to turn its attention to a new initiative. How can it help create a climate where residents are educated about imbibing in spirits more responsibly? Officials need to turn their attention to finding ways to lower their impaired driving statistics, rather than creating a climate where alcohol is more easily accessible.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor of the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Read 1085 times Last modified on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 16:07