Alberta Politics
Thanks, Kenney! Look for scenes like this in Alberta’s campgrounds by Victoria Day 2020 (Photo: Stuff.co.nz).

Uh-oh! Look for unhappy campers: Premier Kenney has vowed to end ‘the War on Fun’

Posted on May 17, 2019, 1:57 am
7 mins

Hey, who can be against ending Canada’s War on Fun?

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

Premier Jason Kenney, Mr. Fun himself (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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, Mr. 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.

Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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 Mr. 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. Here’s to both of them!

That must sting for a Trudeau-hating politician like Mr. 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, Mr. 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.

Richard M. Nixon, president of the United States (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency).

I’m not sure readmitting 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’s vast population of village idiots 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, Mr. 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,” Mr. 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.

The late Gene Zwozdesky, minister of community development in 2004 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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 Mr. 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!

10 Comments to: Uh-oh! Look for unhappy campers: Premier Kenney has vowed to end ‘the War on Fun’

  1. ronmac

    May 17th, 2019

    Booze in campgrounds = wild times = unplanned pregnancies = higher birth rates = less need for immigration. It all makes sense really.

    Reply
  2. John

    May 17th, 2019

    Is this move just another version of giving the people bread and circuses? Sounds like it’s a conservative thing as Ford thinks similarly.

    Reply
  3. Keith McClary

    May 17th, 2019

    “enough time for high school students from Calgary, Red Deer or Edmonton to organize a really big convoy party”
    We have social media for that now.

    “who will have to be hired to help maintain order. Well, there’s nothing wrong with a little job security in the public service.”
    More likely, a Kenney Crony will have an uberised security guard company.

    Reply
  4. Sam Gunsch

    May 17th, 2019

    FWIW… Some readers here will be aware that the ‘just a few bad apples’ minimizing tactic is also the favorite deflection used by defenders of quads/dirt-bikes driving anywhere on public lands, e.g. thru fish bearing streams and the marshes and peat bogs they turn into mud bogging hells/heavens for themselves.

    Hence, it is entirely predictable our new OHV-Parks Minister would offer up this similar defence/dodge:
    ‘… “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, Mr. Nixon may have a higher level of tolerance for booze-fuelled shenanigans than will many future unhappy campers’

    This ‘few bad apples’ is a dodge. Yes, there are leaders in the OHV community, to their credit, who have for decades been making videos and statements that are, again this spring, openly pleading for the thousands of unaffiliated dirtbikers and quadders to end the mayhem on public lands and to show respect for the land/waters and other users. An education, voluntary approach that has been attempted and failed now for 3 decades.

    And for evidence of the failure to change the attitudes towards public lands/waters, when the NDP brought in more enforcement and started implementing designated trails systems in the foothills of the Rockies, AB’s Eastern Slopes, the OHV/dirtbikers went ballistic. And then that same set of OHV leaders organized the motorized opposition that eventually succeeded in blocking more regulation of OHV trails via their successful opposition to the NDP’s Bighorn Country proposal, which their OHV-MLA Nixon got behind, a parks and regulated areas approach which would have provided the legislative framework of Public Land Use Zones to enforce designated OHV trails.

    Kenney/UCP/OHV-Nixon now pandering to the ‘my right to party’ crowd is the same failed voluntary self-regulation approach on alcohol.

    AB’s conservative leaders thru the decades have mostly talked a good game about law and order and public safety/environmental protection, but in practice let their favorite private lobbies have their ‘freedom’.

    It’s always a weird juxtaposition that the hard-right conservative political leaders always trumpet their claim to be on the side of law and order and a safe society, but then they pander to demand for self-regulation that leads to the craziness free-for-all lobby out on public lands and in parks.

    Reply
    • Political Ranger

      May 18th, 2019

      Let’s be real clear here; these yahoos are breaking the law, such as it is. This means they are criminals. Minister Nixon is proposing legislation that favours criminals.
      What kind of dystopian hell are accepting?

      Reply
  5. Sam Gunsch

    May 17th, 2019

    FWIW A retired parks staff on the challenges Kenney/OHV-Nixon are reintroducing to our parks campgrounds for long weekends…

    ‘The parties start late. By the time they are in full swing it’s dark out and you don’t have enough officers to safely deal with out of control people moving around in the shadows. You can’t evict them anyway, because that would mean putting drunks behind the wheel. You can evict earlier in the evening when some are still sober, but only if there are complaints and the nice families camping next too them are too nice to complain.

    By the middle of the night, those nice families are finally angry and scared but there is nobody around to complain to, so they check out and complain in the morning.

    These are all among the reasons that, reluctantly but inevitably, previous governments finally instituted long weekend bans on the problem parks. Nothing has changed so the problems are almost sure to be back, in spades.

    Well, actually something has changed: we now have the Premier of Alberta and the Minister of Parks and Environment putting out videos showing themselves sitting behind stacks of beer cans, telling people to go drink at our parks. It’s going to be a gong show.’

    Reply
  6. Chuckstraight

    May 17th, 2019

    Why no tailgate parties or buck a beer?

    Reply
  7. Dave

    May 17th, 2019

    The UCP seems to be making quite a bit of effort right now in trying to portray themselves at not being the party that fun forgot. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but like a many things in politics, this is more about image than substance. I am guessing neither Mr. Kenney or Mr. Nixon would have been mistaken as high school party animals, unlike Mr. Ford in Ontario who probably took advantage of buck a beer and possibly other substances that were illegal at the time, as much as was possible.

    The Conservative coalition is an interesting one, with all its contradictions. I am sure there are a number of social conservatives who really do not approve more lax rules around drinking, but these days they seem more interested in and focused on regulating pregnancy and high school clubs than in booze or the marital status of their leaders. Some of our more stringent laws around drinking actually go back to the days of Social Credit, which was a populist conservative party in its time. However, just in case you think the UCP have now become totally free wheeling hedonists, just ask them how they feel about legalized marijuana. I have a feeling there would still be a lot of reservations and caution expressed. Isn’t that basically still the position of Mr. Kenney’s former Federal Conservative Party?

    I suspect the hope of the UCP is that these changes to the rules around liquor will make them seem less staid or more modern and will also have some populist appeal. I suspect they also hope they will not get the blame if more road accidents happen, if people find it difficult to enjoy peace and quiet in a park because of more loud partying nearby or if more violence, vandalism or damage happens . Maybe Mr. Zwozdesky was a bit too much of a killjoy, but I think he also realized who would get the blame and complaints if things got out of hand. Mr. Kenney should realize if this happens, he will not be able to blame this one on the NDP, so we’ll see just how long the party lasts this time.

    Reply
  8. Bob Raynard

    May 17th, 2019

    Jason Kenney’s campaign promise to reduce regulations by a third has concerned me since it was first announced, and now we have something that could be considered a case study.

    Reviewing regulations and making sure they are up to date is never a bad idea, as long as it is done intelligently, instead of like a bull in a china shop. That was why Kenney setting a target was a real cause of concern.

    The first step in intelligently retracting the long weekend booze ban would be to investigate the conditions that led to it being implemented in the first place. Something must have been up for politicians to decide to rock the boat and take away people’s booze.

    The second step would be to decide if the conditions that led to the ban still exist. If they don’t then remove the stale regulation. If the conditions do still exist, authorities may decide that the ban was overkill, which presumably is the case here. If the overkill option is chosen, it is then incumbent on the authorities to outline their plan on how to deal with the problems that led to the ban in the first place, such as increasing the funding parks get to deal with increased incidents of vandalism and policing rowdy behaviour.

    Given that we are likely headed into a period of austerity, I think allowing parks to keep their costs down by preventing drunken behaviour in the first place is a good idea. Are they going to simply let park quality deteriorate so they can allow lawlessness, or are they going to allocate funds from other areas (health, education) to cover the increased costs?

    A couple of other points:

    1. The campgrounds tend to be full on long weekends anyway, so its not as if they need to relax the rules to attract more users.

    2. As has been explained to me many times by campground operators in the past, once the drunken camper problem has manifested itself, it is too late to kick out the offenders until the next morning, when they have sobered up; to remove them while they are a problem would require the offenders to drive drunk. As a result fellow campers are stuck with the problem for the rest of the night. If you are kept awake, let Jason know about it.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      May 18th, 2019

      “…to remove them while they are a problem would require the offenders to drive drunk…” Not true, if you call a “buffalo cab” to drive them away … to a safe, secure & quiet place to spend the night, free of charge & courtesy of Her Majesty the Queen …

      Reply

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