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Toronto city council to consider lifting drinking ban in parks once again
May 12, 2022
Chris Fox

Toronto city councillors will once again be asked to sign off on a pilot project permitting the consumption of some alcoholic beverages in city parks during a meeting this week.

Toronto--St. Paul's Coun. Josh Matlow has moved a motion proposing that the city lifts its ban on outdoor drinking in parks between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., as part of a pilot project that would run from May 21 through Oct. 31.

A similar motion was also brought forward by Matlow last April but was essentially shelved when members of the city’s Economic and Community Development Committee referred it back to staff for further consideration.

“There are a lot of people who have backyards and they have the privilege to go out and have a cold beer and a barbecue on a hot summer day at their homes but for so many Torontonians who don’t have that, who don’t have outdoor access at their apartment or condo, they want the same ability to be able to go and just meet up with a friend or a family member and have a glass of wine with a picnic or a cold beer on a bench with a friend. That currently is not allowed in Toronto’s parks,” Matlow told CP24 on Wednesday morning.

Matlow’s motion states that the pilot project would only permit the consumption of beverages that do not exceed 15 per cent alcohol by volume, essentially limiting the drinks that would be allowed to beer, wine and cider.

The motion also stipulates that the consumption of alcoholic beverages would be prohibited “near playgrounds and sports fields, consistent with the prohibition on smoking.”

Speaking with CP24 on Wednesday morning, Mayor John Tory said that he is open to examining ways that members of the public could be allowed to have a drink in a city park in some circumstances.

But he suggested that a member motion, which has not been informed by staff analysis, isn’t the right approach.

“I do think that it is appropriate for us to look at how we can have some more flexible rules to allow for people to have a drink but I think it isn’t the way to do it to have a motion like this where one councillor draws up a set of rules and we make policy in that fashion,” he said.

Tory said that he does have some concerns about the “disruption of people’s use of the parks” in the event that people get “carried away with drinking.”

Matlow, however, pointed out that “people who act drunk or badly in parks don’t care about what the bylaw reads” and are an “existing problem.”

“They are already doing that and we have to address and enforce that but the average person typically just wants to have a cold beer on a hot summer day with a friend and just enjoy our parks,” he said.

As part of his motion, Matlow is also asking staff to ensure as many parks and beaches as possible have a bathroom facility, including portable toilets.

He is also asking that additional garbage and recycling receptacles be placed in parks.

“It is a really exciting proposal that I think has a lot of merit because a lot of people are out there anyways unofficially drinking beer and wine in the park and having a great time. So I think if we can legalize this in a way it just makes sense,” Meg Marshall, who is the community managers of the Queen West BIA, told CP24 on Wednesday morning. “Our local businesses see this as a great economic driver because as we know with CafeTO and the patios they can only hold so many people.”