Central councillors decide against open licenced events

CENTRAL MANITOULIN—Barely a week after agreeing to allow grounds-wide consumption of alcoholic beverages at the Ride Manitoulin festival in keeping with changes to provincial legislation, council voted to tighten the area where alcohol can be consumed at local festivals, shrinking the Providence Bay Tattoo Expo to a 750 square metre beer garden.

Although the June 13 council meeting saw only Councillor Gloria Haner speak out against allowing alcohol to be consumed across the fairgrounds in Providence Bay, with other councillors and the reeve speaking in support of not restricting alcohol in one location, Councillor Adam McDonald was not in attendance at that meeting. In the interim, many councillors had apparently changed their positions.

Councillor Derek Stephens was the only councillor to remain staunchly in defense of allowing alcohol to be consumed across the grounds at local events.

“I went to these events last year,” said Councillor Stephens, “there were no complaints. None. No complaints about this event coming from Providence Bay/Spring Bay,” he said. “Only from Councillor Adam McDonald have I heard a complaint. There have been no incidents, no complaints to the police, no complaints from the public. All of a sudden council is deciding that they have to change the rules.”

Councillor Stephens stated his belief that his fellow councillors had been bullied into changing their positions.

Councillor Stephens noted that the importance of volunteerism to the well-being of the community. “It is a big asset to the community,” he said, adding that the rise of a new generation of community-minded people were bringing their own contributions to the community. “They are taking on young ideas,” he said. “Bringing in new people and adjusting to a new generation. There are entire golf courses where alcohol can be served. Why is council trying to impose rules on a group of people when there is no problem?”

Councillor Stephens noted that tattoos are not the taboo subject they once were. “I am here to make a decision and the only people I have heard from are in favour (of extending alcohol access),” he said. “Nobody has come to this council to say they are against it.”

Councillors remained silent. Reeve Strong called the question and council voted to place restrictions keeping alcohol consumption to a 750-metre square outdoor beer gardenat the Providence Bay Arena “for the Ink on the Bay Festival.”

Michael Erskine