Atlantic Canada is struggling to manage alcohol despite robust impaired driving laws

Published: April 30, 2019

Updated: June 3, 2019

Author: Luke Jones



Atlantic Canada arguably has Canada’s strictest laws on impaired driving, with tough regulations around the infraction. However, there is clearly much work left to be done because other areas of alcohol legislation are failing.

Specifically, Atlantic Canada can improve its infrastructure around health and safety linked to impaired driving and alcohol consumption. That’s the assessment of new report cards co-authored by professor Kara Thompson of the St. Francis Xavier University.

“The Atlantic provinces are scoring poorly in terms of their alcohol policies compared to the rest of Canada,” said Thompson, an assistant professor in psychology. “All scored a failing grade, except for Nova Scotia — which scored a D.”

Scores in Nova Scotia, P.E.I, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick were developed as part of the Canadian Alcohol Policy Evaluation (CAPE) initiative. The project was founded to look into alcohol policies across all provinces and the federal laws.

Conducted by a group of public health and safety experts from around the country, CAPE leveraged public records, online resources, and interviews with government officials to create a map of policy effectiveness. Specifically, the project looked at 11 areas, including impaired driving, minimum drinking age, physical availability, pricing and taxation, marketing/advertising, liquor law enforcement, alcohol control system, and health/safety messaging.

Atlantic Canada scored well in terms of impaired driving regulations, with all four provinces scoring As or Bs. However, all four failed on the physical availability of alcohol, with more on-premises retail locations per head of population that the rest of Canada.

“We are seeing privatization of alcohol sales creep in. New Brunswick’s pilot project to allow alcohol sales in grocery stores in 2014 has resulted in equal numbers of grocery and government liquor stores, Newfoundland and Labrador have allowed beer sales in corner stores for a long time now,”