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E-BLAST: Update: Alcohol in Parks Pilot Program


You may have heard about the Alcohol in Parks Pilot Program that has been proposed to start here in Toronto later this summer. I wrote an E-Blast about this back in May, and we've had a couple of questions phoned in since the pilot was unanimously approved at my Economic & Community Development Committee a couple of weeks ago, including when the pilot will start and which parks are included.

Here are the basic details of the pilot program:

  • It will run from August 2, 2023 to October 9, 2023

  • It will run in 22 parks across the city, each of which had to meet a strict set of criteria to be eligible and were chosen in partnership between staff and the local Councillor

  • Bylaw officers will focus on an education-first approach in all parks, both pilot and non-pilot, to help folks learn the rules

  • Participating parks will receive special beverage recycling containers

  • Park users are still expected to follow all applicable laws and bylaws, including rules against littering, public intoxication, and more

It's important to note that the proposed pilot still needs to receive final approval from the Mayor and Council at our session next week, and it could change slightly. Council has a bit of a habit of tinkering with and complicating things. It's my hope that on this occasion, my colleagues will let well enough alone. Parks staff and bylaw enforcement staff are well prepared to supervise and monitor the pilot as designed.

A map showing the original 20 pilot locations. Two additional parks have since been added. Click to view a larger version. The pilot was designed in consultation with Toronto Public Health and is based on successful models in other cities. I believe it's a practical, common sense approach. All parks selected have access to washroom and drinking fountain facilities, public transit access, high visibility and accessibility by first responders, and more. We've also put in a rule that alcohol cannot be consumed within two metres of park features like playgrounds, pools, wading pools, splash pads, and more. This pilot was designed to allow folks to enjoy a drink responsibly without compromising the experience of other park users. As soon as the pilot is approved, the City will begin our full outreach and education campaign.

The approved parks will appear on the City's website along with the rules for safe enjoyment. Here in Don Valley North, the park that met the strict pilot criteria was Skymark Park at Don Mills and Finch. Of course, you are also welcome to venture out and enjoy a drink in the other parks on the approved list.

In the meantime, remember to be courteous in any park you use, pilot or otherwise. Making noise in a park after midnight is not allowed, and can be startling to neighbours. If you're in a pilot park, consumption of alcohol is not a license to behave badly. If you engage in antisocial behaviour, it may be illegal and officers have a right to warn or enforce.

For those of you who have concerns about the pilot, I want to remind you that it's just that: a pilot. Alcohol consumption will only be allowed in the selected parks for two months. This will give staff a chance to see whether or not this is something we can accommodate safely without compromising the experience of other park users. They will be monitoring the pilot closely and reporting back to Council with their full findings to help us decide what to do next.

We can all have a great time in our local parks, in Don Valley North and across the city, provided we use some common sense and always keep each other in mind. As always, feel free to contact my office with your questions and concerns.

 

ECONOMIC & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT UPDATES: COLLISION 2023

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Collision, North America's fastest-growing tech conference, hosted right here in Toronto. This event caters, unapologetically, to the whole ecosystem of tech start-ups, giants, and investors, and the governments that swirl around them. Some early stats have come back to my office and, while they're unofficial numbers, they show just how successful this event was and what this could mean when we host Collision again in 2024.

Up until now, it's been hard to get a sense of this event's impact because the hybrid format used during the pandemic masked attendance. This year, Collision brought together over 36,000 attendees from 118 countries. It’s hard to overstate the economic impact of an event this large. The conference attendees filled up the Enercare Centre and the Beanfield Centre down at the Exhibition grounds, and went on to fill most of the hotels downtown. They feasted on lunch from nearby food trucks and every evening, they went into town to try our world-class restaurants.

Across the three times Toronto has hosted Collision, it has brought $188 million into our local economy, including $77 million projected this year. The conference will be returning to Toronto in 2024, and Collision's CEO Paddy Cosgrave is thrilled. When asked, Paddy said that Toronto was the perfect location to foster the connections Collision looks to make: “We’re delighted to be in Toronto for another year, and to welcome a record number of attendees and women-founded start-ups to Canada. This is possibly one of the most diverse conferences we’ve ever run, with hundreds of women-founded start-ups, initiatives such as our Indigenous Attendee Program, and community partners like Black Innovation Alliance helping to broaden representation at tech events.”

I wanted to share this success with you because this event flies under the radar, but results in massive amounts of investment into our city and into new Canadian companies. It takes a huge amount of work from our the Economic Development teams at all three levels of government and partners like Toronto Global to land an opportunity like Collision, but it's well worth the time and energy invested. With every regional government presenting local start-ups to the investors and venture capital firms in attendance, this event can really drive economic growth in the GTHA and across the country.

 


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