By Derek Cornet
La Ronge Council has thrown its support behind proposals restricting alcohol sales on Sundays, statutory holidays, month-end paydays and Canada Child Benefit payment days.
A motion supporting the restrictions was passed by council earlier this week. The motion states members accept, in principal, some of the proposals put forward by the Lac La Ronge Region Community Alcohol Management Plan. Other changes Council supported were banning off-sale after 11 p.m., no alcohol sales at bars or community events after 1 a.m., and prohibiting liquor retailers from announcing a last call. A second motion was also passed in support of a five per cent levy on alcohol sales to fund initiatives to increase public safety and well-being of the community.
La Ronge Coun. Matthew Klassen said the restrictions have the support of Council, but they will not be imposed without extensive public consultation.
“Whatever does happen, and whatever is completely implemented, is not going to be set in stone,” Klassen said. “Council has basically agreed to pursue these options right now. There are many more steps that are going to have to take place, which are going to include public forums.”
Council’s support, with exception of Mayor Ron Woytowich and Coun. Jordan McPhail, who both voted against the first motion, stemmed from a survey the town conducted late in 2017. The results showed 95 per cent of respondents believed there are problems with alcohol in the community, 77 per cent supported changes to policies and laws related to alcohol, and 64 per cent indicated incidents of alcohol-related harm are increasing.
Regarding a potential alcohol ban on certain days of the month, Klassen said the option is evidence-based, and has already been done in a similar-sized community in Australia. In that case, Klassen said, there was a 45 per cent decrease to visits to women shelters and a 34 per cent reduction in alcohol-related hospital admissions.
“We’re just at a stage where we need to start implementing some of this, and try it and see if it works,” he said. “If there’s certain options in the policy that needs to change, or we aren’t seeing any production on, we’ll amend them to go forward.”
Other proposals supported by La Ronge Council included improving monitoring of liquor vendors, and requiring bars to provide free or low-cost non-alcoholic drinks to designated drivers.