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Jason Kenney vows to end 'the war on fun' by allowing alcohol in provincial campgrounds

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Campground in Vermilion, Alberta. Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta/Wikimedia Commons

Hey, who can be against ending Canada's war on fun?

Not me, and not Jason Kenney either by the sound of it.

You have to admit, though, the Alberta premier's announcement yesterday that he plans to end what he calls "the war on fun" by allowing the booze to flow again in provincial campgrounds on long weekends, starting tomorrow, was kind of a weird one.

You'd almost think the United Conservative Party brain trust was just flyin' by the seat of its pants, ripping pages from the Ford brothers' beer-sodden playbook and putting the stuff in there into action without really reading it very carefully. Do you think it's possible they confused the war on cars (Rob) with buck-a-beer (Doug)?

I mean, seriously, Kenney is a lifelong social conservative killjoy and a very public adherent of the religious tradition that popularized the concept of the mortification of the flesh.

Well, I suppose Richard Nixon, the old red baiter, was the first to go to China, so maybe Jason Kenney can actually be the man to end Alberta's war on fun.

I have to tell you, though, future historians are going to give the credit for the "beginning of the end of the war on fun," which I believe were Kenney's exact words yesterday, to the two Trudeaus, pere et fils. Pierre, after all, got the state out of the bedrooms of the nation; Justin got it out of the planters on our windowsills.

That must sting for a Trudeau-hating politician like Kenney, and not in a nice way, but he's just going to have to live with it.

Speaking of Nixons, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon offered this explanation: "We should not punish the majority of responsible campers through liquor bans because of the past behaviour of a few bad characters." Remember, though, being a big fan of the ATV set, Nixon may have a higher level of tolerance for booze-fuelled shenanigans than will many future unhappy campers.

Which brings us back to the UCP strategy for waging the war on the war on fun.

I'm not sure re-admitting copious amounts of booze to our provincial parks on long weekends is the right way to go about this.

As my blogging colleague Dave Cournoyer reminded the Twitter community yesterday, Progressive Conservative Community Development Minister Gene Zwosdesky imposed the ban in 2004.

He did it because Alberta’s parks were turning into drunken hellholes on long weekends, especially Victoria Day. The ban, Zwozdesky's news release said, was intended to put an end to "rowdy parties, vandalism, impaired driving, assaults and other crimes, due to excessive liquor consumption."

"We are confident that this proactive approach will aid in making some of Alberta's most popular provincial parks safer and more enjoyable places for families to camp on long weekends," Zwozdesky was quoted saying in the release.

In the event, that is exactly what happened. As a result, the temporary long weekend booze ban became permanent until Premier Fun came along.

I talked to a retired Alberta parks officer of my acquaintance yesterday evening. He recalled how the May long weekend was always the most nightmarish of the summer in those pre-ban days.

"Everybody was ready to bust loose," he remembered. "One or two campsites wouldn't be too bad, but there were times when you would have a whole loop of a campground involved in one party. Or a series of parties … not much difference.

"When you're having groups of 30 or 40 people coming into a campground for a major party, it can get pretty bad," he explained. "Family groups did not enjoy being around that type of situation."

When Zwozdesky's liquor ban came in, things quickly calmed down. "The ban made it more enjoyable for families to come out and use the parks safely," my friend said. Families started coming back soon after the ban came into effect, and they've been enjoying Alberta's parks on long weekends ever since.

Well, there hasn't been enough time for high school students from Calgary, Red Deer or Edmonton to organize a really big convoy party this year, but things should be well out of hand in the parks by this time in 2020.

Then, if you’re a camper, you can say, "Thanks, Kenney!"

And if you're a parks officer or a Mountie, of course, you can say, "welcome aboard" to your new colleagues, who will have to be hired to help maintain order. Well, there's nothing wrong with a little job security in the public service.

I suppose we should just be grateful the UCP brain trust didn't get things really mixed up and decide to end the war on beer in cars!

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta/Wikimedia Commons

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