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Alcohol consumption is now allowed in 27 Toronto parks, for a limited time

TORONTO — Starting today, Toronto residents are allowed to consume alcohol in some parks, as the city kicks off a time-limited pilot project.

The pilot project runs until Oct. 9 and allows those 19 and older to drink alcohol at 27 selected parks across Toronto, including Queen’s Park, Corktown Common and Earlscourt Park, where officials will formally launch the initiative later this morning.

City officials have said drinking in parks is not a major issue, most residents do so respectfully and responsibly, and no tickets have been issued for it in 2023.

In west-end Trinity Bellwoods Park, Heather Laxdal says she assumed drinking in parks was already legal because it is done so commonly and she doesn’t think the pilot will have much impact.

The proposed program is in part based on the experiences of other Canadian cities — such as Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary — that have recently expanded similar programs to allow drinking in some public parks.

Calgary allows people to drink at some parks where residents can book public picnic tables or use them on a first-come, first-serve basis, while Edmonton voted to allow drinking in designated parks permanently back in February.

Drinking while having a meal in a picnic area or some parks is allowed in Montreal and Quebec City, but banned in other parts of Quebec like Longueuil and Sherbrooke.

In May, the province of Saskatchewan passed a bill giving municipalities and park authorities the power to allow or not allow liquor consumption for those of legal drinking age, and Regina is set to debate the idea later this month.

Toronto says it is the first municipality in Ontario to introduce an alcohol in parks pilot since the province allowed municipalities to designate public spaces for consumption.

A city survey on responsible alcohol use in parks earlier this year found 44 per cent of residents support the idea, while 34 per cent expressed some degree of opposition and 21 per cent were neutral on the issue.

Most concerns revolved around public intoxication, disruptive behaviour and litter or soiling of public spaces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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