Editorial — July 16, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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Kudos to Coun. Ted Zurakowski for taking a position against the city funding alcohol-related events.

Evidence of his position’s importance was made crystal clear only a couple hours after Monday’s city council meeting wrapped up, fittingly just outside of city hall where Zurakowski took his stand.

Walking through the city hall property on our way to take a photograph, we witnessed a woman who appeared to have a difficult time sitting on a bench off of Central Avenue.

“Help me,” she pleaded, clasping at her stomach.

As others in the area walked past her ignoring the situation, we approached her to find out what the matter was.

Reeking of alcohol, she slurred her words in a manner that made little sense and decided that right there and then was the perfect time to drop her pants.

This is not a pleasant detail, but one that’s important to note, as it paints a picture of how ugly the scourge of alcohol can be.

A prompt call to emergency dispatchers had Parkland Ambulance on the scene within a few minutes.

Calling her by name, the paramedics calmly dealt with the situation, employing a bedside manner that’s worthy of commendation.

This story is far from unique.

Last weekend alone, police made 81 arrests, of which 33 were for people being intoxicated in a public place.

Between May 2009 and 2012, city police spent $2.55 million on the arrest and lodging of people due to public intoxication.

During this timeframe, 5,565 people were arrested for public intoxication, of whom 552 were youth.

In 2012 alone, 1,341 hours (or 55 days) of policing services were spent on public intoxication arrests.

Of Prince Albert tenth-graders, 67.9 per cent reported binge drinking. The national rate for Grade 10 students is 49.4 per cent.

At Monday’s city council meeting, Zurakowski used the $2,500 funding request from the 2014 Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies as an example of funding requests the city receives for events that serve alcohol as an example, and said that he in no way doubts the event’s positive impact.

Catching up with event chair Peter Anholt on Tuesday, we asked him, “Why include that component of the evening?” -- that, indicating alcohol.

Dead silence on the other end of the line.

After more clarification, he laughed off the question.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” he said. “What event do we not have (alcohol)?”

This isn’t a criticism of Anholt or the terrific event he’s helping organize. He’s right.

Alcohol is the norm in Prince Albert.

It’s a city where the average resident over the age of 15 spent approximately $1,249 on alcohol in 2011.

The provincial average is $703.

It’s a city where liquor stores remain open until 3 a.m., despite bars closing by 2 a.m.

It’s a city where drive-thru liquor stores make it so you don’t even have to leave your vehicle to purchase alcohol.

With the provincial government loosening liquor laws, they’ve effectively told us they don’t care about the problem.

It’s up to people like Coun. Ted Zurakowski to take hard positions against alcohol and to usher a call to action among the balance of the community against Prince Albert’s greatest scourge.

Zurakowski put his foot in the door, and now we’ve got to pry it open.

Why is alcohol so important to the community at large?

Why is alcohol the go-to instead of the exception to the rule?

If one needs alcohol to have fun, is what they’re doing truly fun?

Is serving alcohol at a city-funded event, in a city-funded building sending the wrong message?

These are questions we have to ask ourselves.

Just because it’s the way it’s always been doesn’t mean it’s the way it always should be.

 

Prince Albert Daily Herald

Organizations: Prince Albert, Daily Herald

Geographic location: Central Avenue

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