The province has put forward a new bill this week that, if passed, would further increase availability of beverage alcohol for Ontario consumers.
Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019, outlines several proposed changes across many ministries that the provincial government says are aimed to reduce “regulatory burden” on businesses. The proposals related to alcohol include making it available 24 hours a day at commercial airports in licensed bars and restaurants located behind security, as well as removing personal exemption limits on the amount of alcohol one can bring into Ontario across provincial borders.
These changes follow previous expansion of beverage alcohol availability in Ontario. Most recently in June, the province announced that 300 new retailers, including corner stores, grocery stores and big box stores, had been approved to sell alcohol. Prior to that, legislative changes allowed for alcohol to be consumed in parks and at “tailgate” parties at sporting events; loosened restrictions on sale hours for bars, restaurants and retail outlets; lowered minimum pricing requirements, and more.
Earlier this year, Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division partnered with Children’s Mental Health Ontario and Addictions and Mental Health Ontario to present its perspectives and recommendations in a response to a government call for public input on plans to expand alcohol sales. The submission called for a balance of consumer demand for increased alcohol sales while ensuring the health of Ontarians remains a priority, and included three core recommendations:
- An incremental approach to alcohol sales expansion, which will allow government to monitor and evaluate the impact of any changes or increase in harms gradually.
- Provide enhanced prevention and public education on the impacts of alcohol, particularly for youth.
- Ensure a portion of additional revenue generated by increased alcohol availability goes directly to mental health and addictions services, which would assist in meeting current gaps in funding for direct service provision.