Raising a glass to change


Provincial governments are in talks about lowering the drinking age

Rikkeal Bohmann

Young people in Saskatchewan can raise their glasses to the Sask. Party as they took a look at liquor laws at their convention early this November.

A resolution was voted favourably by the Sask. Party members to lower the legal drinking age from 19 to 18. Resolutions are suggestions, made by the members of a party on the path they would like to see the political party take.

The legal drinking age in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec is 18.

This vote, although popular with the younger population, has held some grievances for the minister responsible for Saskatchewan liquor and gaming, Donna Harpauer. She believes this could lead to alcohol being brought into schools.

Premier Brad Wall sees both sides to this issue. In an interview with Saskatoon’s Star Phoenix, Wall told reporters that "you can see the rationale that these young people come with. Someone can serve their country, be in harm's way. Someone can choose their government…and yet that person serving his country can't go to the [Royal Canadian] Legion and have a beer," Wall said. "On the other hand, do we want to be broadening the access to alcohol for young people? There is really two sides."

Currently, anyone 18 years of age in Saskatchewan is considered a legal adult who can enlist in the military, vote for their government and be charged as an adult in court, but cannot go to the Owl to order a beer on a Friday after class.

URSU president, Nathan Sgrazzutti, puts it plainly in saying, that in “the youth culture we live in, students drink,” and he supports the changing of this law on behalf of URSU for two reasons: safety for students, and business for URSU.

“Seventy-five per cent of [the] residence is first years, [and the] majority drink. [We would] rather they be drinking in a safe place like a bar.” – Nathan Sgrazzutti 

Sgrazzutti states that student safety is a huge issue for URSU, noting the large population of eighteen year olds attending the University of Regina. Changing the age could help in eliminating unsafe drinking practices done in private, such as in residence.

“Seventy-five per cent of [the] residence is first years, and the majority drink. [We would] rather they be drinking in a safe place like a bar,” he said.

Sgrazzutti explains that having the presence of servers, bartenders and bouncers make bars more safe as they can cut people off from drinking in excess.

“[We would] rather have students in a safe environment. We’re not going to tell students to drink. Personally … choice is stronger than legislation,” he further clarified.  

On the business side, Sgrazzutti hopes that this will allow more choice for students to go to student society events, and other events hosted in the Owl.     

“Lowering [the drinking age] by one year would make a huge impact… now [the students] have a choice,” he explained.

With rising tuition costs, and programs being cut and dramatically altered, drinking hardly seems to be an issue students should be worrying about right now, and Sgrazzutti agrees.

“[This is] not even on the radar. It’s the lowest rank on my agenda.”

He notes that it is unfortunate that this issue is gaining more media hype than other issues URSU is trying to push forward, such as the academic review.

At a provincial level, Wall told CBC that lowering the legal drinking age is something he will consider. “We take resolutions at the convention very seriously. Before we consider any sort of change, we’re going to have to consult.”

For the legal drinking age to be lowered, it will need to passed through legislature to become a policy change.

Photo courtesy xarj.net

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