Alcohol farm

The way democracy works: ‘Alberta town votes against ending century-old liquor ban

RAYMOND, ALBERTA — The council of a southern Alberta town that has been dry for more than a century has voted against a motion allowing restaurants to serve alcohol.

Six of seven councilors in Raymond, about 240 kilometers south of Calgary, voted against the motion to change its land use planning by-law after a majority of city residents responding to a poll said they opposed change.

“The prevailing sentiment was that there is a unique aspect of the community that the majority of respondents felt was important (to preserve),” said Kurtis Pratt, executive director of Raymond.

“While it wasn’t unanimous, it was a pretty strong indication to the council and, ultimately, that’s how democracy works.”

Pratt said more than half of the roughly 890 residents who took the survey said they didn’t want restaurants to serve alcohol, no matter how much it might help the local economy.

They were also asked about “the community’s change from a mostly dry status to a more wet or moist status,” Pratt said.

Pratt said the council heard in a town hall meeting on Tuesday evening that 459 respondents wanted Raymond to remain a predominantly dry community, 238 wanted the ban to end, 166 favored a change for licensed restaurants and 22 were indifferent.

Pratt said the vote means Raymond will continue his ban, which began when the original properties were purchased by the town’s founder in the early 20th century.

People can still buy alcohol from neighboring communities to drink at home. Temporary licenses can be obtained to serve alcohol at weddings and special occasions.

Pratt said about 2,700 of the city’s 4,000 residents were eligible to take the survey.

Raymond’s alcohol ban was part of a worldwide movement popular in the 19th and 20th centuries that urged moderation or total abstinence from alcohol. Alcohol was believed to be responsible for many societal ills.

Canada’s Temperance Act of 1878 gave local governments the ability to ban the sale of alcohol.

Pratt said the council’s latest vote against a change to the city’s liquor law doesn’t mean companies can’t apply for a license and relaunch a discussion.

“Letting people feel like they’ve been heard is an important step. All in all, it’s been a healthy process and that’s really all you can ask for.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 20, 2022.

— By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press