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Toronto neighbourhood debates alcohol use in park

A glass of beer produced by SABMiller PLC is seen in this undated company photo released to the media in 2011. A plan by Miller Brewing Co., a subsidiary of SABMiller PLC, to terminate its Canadian licensing agreement with Molson Coors suffered a legal setback Thursday when an Ontario court granted a temporary injunction that prevents the termination until a trial on the matter scheduled for later this year.

Jason Alden/SABMiller

Politicians and residents are grappling with how to strike the right balance on public alcohol consumption in downtown parks in Toronto.

Recent complaints of excessive noise and public urination at five popular downtown Toronto parks have prompted a police crackdown on illegal drug use and public alcohol consumption called Project Green Glasses.

This in turn led to a town hall meeting on Thursday where neighbours of the biggest and most popular of those five, Trinity Bellwoods Park in the downtown Queen Street West area, debated the issue.

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The majority of area residents at the meeting organized by local city Councillor Mike Layton said they believed heightened police presence would do little to curb problem park visitors. Some residents who say they enjoy alcohol responsibly in the park feel that all may be punished for the actions of a few.

"Drinking in public is certainly something our officers look for because they have to because it's part of the law," said Joe Couto, Director of Government Relations and Communications for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

But as he points out, "We have a lot on our plate going after serious crimes."

At the Trinity Bellwoods Community Centre town hall meeting, residents suggested changing the public drinking laws for Ontario parks to align with Quebec laws that allow alcohol in parks if food is also consumed.

Any change in the Liquor License Act would have to come from the Attorney General for Ontario.

Attorney General for Ontario John Gerretsen could not be reached for comment. But spokesman Brendan Crawley said "There are no plans to change the law to allow drinking in public at this time."

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