Ontario alcohol policy report card

The Ontario government’s proposed new changes to alcohol policy—including wider availability, extending hours of sale, legalizing tailgate parties, and allowing for advertising of free alcohol in casinos and happy-hour specials—will increase alcohol-related harms in the province, according to the Canadian Alcohol Policy Evaluation (CAPE) project.

"Whenever we make alcohol cheaper and easier to access, we see consumption increase, and that means more alcohol-related hospitalizations, deaths, crimes and other harms,” says Norman Giesbrecht, CAMH Scientist Emeritus and co-principal investigator of the CAPE project.

The CAPE project is a Health Canada-funded study jointly led by CAMH and the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR). After carefully reviewing evidence and examining effective harm-reducing approaches to alcohol from around the world, the CAPE team created an alcohol policy framework that identified gold-standard policies that should be in place at the provincial, territorial and federal levels of Canadian government. This framework was then used to assess alcohol policies across Canada for the year 2017 and continues to be used to monitor and assess alcohol policy changes in Ontario.  In addition to evaluating policies in 11 different areas (including Pricing and Taxation, Physical Availability and Marketing and Advertising) against the framework’s gold-standard best practices, this report offers recommendations for how Ontario could strengthen its approach to alcohol.

Missing from these proposals, according to the researchers, are plans to monitor their impact. “Our framework recommends having strong systems in place to monitor and report on alcohol consumption and harms, as well as robust health and safety messaging, including labels on alcohol products,” says Giesbrecht.

"When we gathered our data to see how Ontario stacks up against the best practices, Ontario was actually the highest-scoring jurisdiction in Canada as of 2017,” says Ashley Wettlaufer, a CAMH Research Coordinator and CAPE project researcher. “If we were to write them a report card today, that would not be the case.”

Read the full CAMH media release.