Relaxing regulations around alcohol seemed to get a lot of attention last week when Doug Ford’s provincial government released its 2019 budget.
A number of changes are expected to be implemented this summer including allowing municipalities to permit drinking in parks and other public areas, creating tailgating permits for qualifying sporting events as well as allowing licensed establishments to begin serving alcohol at 9 a.m.
When asked about Doug Ford’s apparent fascination with alcohol, Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller said while people assume Premier Doug Ford is a drinker, he’s not.
“They assume he drinks a few beers because he’s not a small guy, you know, so I would’ve assumed that, but he actually doesn’t drink himself,” said Miller. He also noted one of the alcohol-related changes in the budget announced last Thursday was born from an inquiry made right here in Muskoka.
Miller said he was contacted by Muskoka Highlands Golf Course owner Don MacKay asking why the golf course could not start serving alcohol as early as 9 a.m. “I said really? Do people drink at 9 o’clock in the morning? He said they do and they bring their own. And if we’re selling it, it’ll be more regulated,” said Miller of the exchange. “So that was one of the alcohol changes that was approved in the budget.”
Loosening the regulations around the purchase and consumption of alcohol was part of the PC’s election promise, said Miller. As for the related public health issues that might arise by making alcohol more readily available, Miller’s response was that people ought to be treated like adults.
“I think we need to treat our citizens like grownups and adults. I would totally agree that we all have to be smart about how we consume alcohol, and we shouldn’t drink and drive, for sure, and we need to be responsible, but that’s up to individuals…”
As for smoking weed, Miller said he has mixed feelings about the legalization of pot. He said other than more money for governments, he can’t see the benefits. “I drink, I figure I have enough vices and don’t need another one,“ he said. “I’m not sure what the societal positive benefit is going to be to that whole change, but it’s something that was dictated by the federal government and we’re in the process of implementing it as supply becomes more available.”
As for gambling, the government plans on establishing a competitive online gambling market, which Miller described as keeping up with the times. “And again, personally, I’m not in big favour of gambling. I don’t gamble myself, and I don’t see the great fascination with it, but a lot of people do and I think some of the changes being made are sort of to keep up with the times.”
As for addiction and mental health issues, Miller said Minister of Health Christine Elliott is very interested in that issue.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of money on addressing mental health—3.8 billion dollars. That’s a combination of half federal, half provincial money, and she’s absolutely working on her strategy,” said Miller, adding that the Minister has been lobbying and working on issues related to mental health for some time. “I’m sure it’s something that we’re going to be keenly working on going forward.”
He said he’s also heard the Minister of Education talking about creating mental health programs in schools for the first time.
Read more comments from Miller on the provincial budget here: Miller talks budget and says he’s feeling ‘much better’ about Doug Ford as leader.
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.