Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Once in a blue moon, Doug Ford manages to make sense. The other day he was speaking about a glaring contradiction he’s noticed. Under the rules governing legalized marijuana, you can sit on a blanket in a public park drawing on an expertly rolled joint and not worry about a cop harshing your mellow, but you can’t drink a glass of merlot or crack a can of IPA.

“What’s the difference?” quoth the Premier. “They’re making it legal to go out and smoke a joint, a doobie, a reefer, whatever the heck they call it nowadays. I wouldn’t want my kids walking by with a bunch of guys smoking cannabis or marijuana, but if a couple of guys are sitting there quietly on a picnic bench having a cold little beer, who cares?”

Leaving aside the slur on that harmless bunch of guys, he has a point. There really isn’t much difference. If you can have a joint or nibble a marijuana brownie with your picnic, why should it be a problem to sip wine or beer? “Big deal. Who cares, if you aren’t rowdy?” said Mr. Ford, warming to his topic.

Story continues below advertisement

Don’t blame those who gathered in Trinity Bellwoods – blame the city

Who indeed. The COVID-19 pandemic furnishes a golden opportunity to relax our horse-and-buggy rules on public drinking. After being cooped up at home for all those weeks, the Premier notes, people are desperate to get out in the open air. They need some breathing space. If they drink responsibly, respecting others and maintaining physical distance, the authorities ought to leave them alone.

In Paris or Berlin, you can have a public tipple without attracting the attention of law enforcement. In Montreal, you can have a drink in a park with your meal. Why not in Toronto?

The provincial government says cities can allow drinking in public parks if they choose. But though Toronto claims to be a forward-thinking, cosmopolitan metropolis, it has never quite escaped the stern outlook of its bewhiskered forefathers. Their influence lives on.

Only recently did Ontario allow beer and wine – but still not the demon liquor – to be sold in supermarkets, and you still can’t get it in corner stores, despite Mr. Ford’s promises to change that. The province maintains a huge network of government liquor stores, for no apparent reason except to replenish the provincial treasury. And it still has a ridiculous chain of private outlets dedicated solely to the sale of beer – now also available at the liquor store and the supermarket. It’s called “the Beer Store.”

It is long past time for a change. Attitudes about drinking in the outdoors are evolving during the pandemic. Many cities have allowed bars and restaurants to set up outdoor patios so that patrons can enjoy a drink in the open air, where the risk of coronavirus infection is lower. In Toronto, patios separated from traffic by orange markers line some main streets, giving them a pleasing European feel. Officials are letting restaurants sell drinks with takeout orders, too.

North Vancouver decided in June to allow drinking in certain parks for a trial period. Vancouver proper followed suit with selected plazas. New Alberta rules allow people to drink when picnicking in provincial parks.

North Vancouver’s mayor makes the point that for those who live in high-rises and multiunit buildings with no yards, parks are a kind of extension of home. Letting them drink there is only giving them the freedom that those in bigger homes enjoy.

Story continues below advertisement

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he is open to the idea, but, given how much the city has on its plate, now may not be the time. He is wrong about that. This is the perfect time for the city once known as Toronto the Good to loosen its stays and let residents have an innocent drink on the grass.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies