Drinking in parks

Toronto could allow drinking in parks this summer

Once again, a city councillor is pushing to allow the drinking of alcohol in Toronto parks.

Councillor Shelley Carroll, seconded by Councillor Chris Moise, is moving a motion that recommends two things. One, that the city parks department connect with local councillors to determine which wards will host a pilot project and work with those interested to confirm said pilot. And two, consult with parks, as well as the municipal licensing and standards department, the city solicitor and the medical officer of health to determine a recommended approach to run the pilot program this summer from July 1 to Oct. 9.

“Across the country, major cities are piloting various programs to allow alcohol consumption in public parks. In Toronto, alcohol in parks is illegal but largely unenforced: No tickets were issued in 2022,” the motion reads.

“Following the lead of these cities and acknowledging the desire for options to drink in public parks, this Motion directs staff to undertake an opt-in pilot program this summer, in line with the best practices of other Canadian cities.”

A similar motion was put to council last year by city councillor and now candidate for mayor Josh Matlow. But his motion failed  at the committee level before it was even debated at city council.

“Last summer, council recognized the importance of being able to enjoy a drink outside by loosening restrictions on patios with the successful CaféTO, which will return this year,” said Matlow, last year. “But what about Torontonians who can’t afford a drink in a bar or don’t have an outdoor space in their homes? These residents will either be forced to have unsafe gatherings indoors or, like many over the past year, choose to drink illegally in parks.”

City councillor James Pasternak was against the idea, at the time, and it is unclear who will support the motion this time around.

“Although having an alcoholic drink in a beautiful park is enticing, the liberalization of alcohol use in our parks is a high-risk policy that is more likely than not to lead to negative outcomes. I’ve sat on the parks committee for six of the 10 years I’ve been at city hall, and no one has said to me that they would like to see more alcohol in our parks,” he said, last year. “Although most who consume alcohol do so responsibly and respectfully, increased alcohol consumption in parks in other jurisdictions has led to public intoxication, the disturbing of other park users, increased broken glass, refuge and litter.”

The motion is set to be debated at a city council meeting on March 30.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO