Alcohol has long been a problem in northern Saskatchewan, but the Town of La Ronge plans to go to the electorate to help put a cap on the issue.
Residents will have a chance vote on possible alcohol sale restrictions in the community, such as banning alcohol sales after 11 p.m. and limiting liquor store hours on month-end and Canada Child Benefit payment days. The plebiscite vote was announced Tuesday at a public meeting organized by those spearheading the Community Alcohol Management Plan. According to a document released at the event, the vote is a way for residents to guide La Ronge Council’s decisions on specific items proposed in the plan. Council already approved one recommendation limiting the sales of alcohol on Sundays and statutory holidays to between 1 and 8 p.m.
Council also decided to pursue a bylaw banning liquor sales before 11 a.m. and after 1 a.m. on most other days, but the plebiscite will also ask if the sale of alcohol should be banned after 11 p.m. Businesses will need to promote the availability of safe transportation and taxi companies will be required to operate as long as local bars are open. A new rule will also revoke the business license of establishments which violate the bylaw three times.
When the meeting was opened to questions, an attendee asked why special occasion permit holders were excluded from restrictions on Sundays and statutory holidays. He also wondered what would happen to the numerous local events such as cabarets and beers gardens which sell alcoholic beverages for fundraising purposes.
“For special occasions, we’re thinking about weddings, funerals, wakes and those sorts of occasions,” Counc. Matt Klassen said. “There’s a separate point on limiting hours or restricting access when children and families are involved.”
Another attendee asked what’s being done by the RCMP to increase the number of nighttime patrols and cut back on alcohol-driven crime. Counc. Dallas Everest said the problem is the detachment serves more than just the tri-community area and they’re currently fully-staffed with 23 members.
“We are looking at maybe getting a municipal police force to stay here and service this town,” he said. “It’s not about worrying about the outlying communities. We have to start looking at taking care of our backyard.”
Although the plebiscite vote was announced Tuesday, no official date has been set. Other Saskatchewan communities, including Prince Albert, have developed their own alcohol strategies in order to help reduce the issue.
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