Alberta may be the richest province in Canada, it has huge amounts of oil and gas, and with crude oil nearing the dreaded $150 a barrel level, Alberta is likely the only place in the world, outside of the Middle East that is booming.

Booming also are silly laws. I guess with all this money floating around the Provincial Government feels it should spend this lovely lolly on irking the general population. Alberta has an illustrious history of ridiculous laws.

I lived here in the 1980’s and back then bars were not permitted to be open on Sundays. You could only get a drink if you ordered food. Of course this led to the situation where many bars did in fact open, and for 50 cents they would plonk down a green salad in front of you and you could drink all you wanted. This silly law was changed in 1988 for the Winter Olympics. Clearer heads prevailed, with the whole world peering at Calgary through the media microscope the Green Salad solution would have seemed a little bizarre.

When I returned to Calgary in 2002 I discovered that another whacko piece of legislation had found it’s way into law. There was a drive to cut down on smoking. Of course the Bars and Restaurants were not keen on this potentially business killing move. So in something right out of a sit-com the city passed a law whereby it was ok to smoke in the bar, but not outside on the patio. This one blew me away! I would have thought that the problems with second hand smoke would have been considerably less if they had done this law the other way around.

In January 2007 they banned smoking in Bars and Restaurants, but of course there were exceptions, a great source of revenue are the Casinos, so they were exempt. As were establishments that had an ‘air tight’ room, another great idea from the brain cells we elect!

Also in 2007 we had the ‘spitting in public’ law. You face a $115 fine for spitting in public. Of course enforcement of this law is highly selective, and mainly aimed at intimidation of the native and indigent population. I wrote an article about one poor recipient of this wonderful law.

July 1st of 2008 saw the next piece of idiocy, once again the idea is to curb smoking. Now vendors are not allowed to display cigarette products. All cigarette related material has to be hidden! God this sounds like buying condoms in the 60’s! “Psst, got any cigarettes?”

This move particularly irks me. I am a smoker, but I have no brand loyalty and with the exorbitant tax placed on them I tend to buy the cheapest brand. With no advertising or displays, it is now a chore to determine the best value.

Coming in August is the next silly law. This time it is about booze. Alberta is now mandating a minimum price for ‘happy hour’ (which must be over before 8pm) and how many drinks you can purchase after 1am.

While America brags of being ‘The land of the free’, the Province of Alberta seems to want the title ‘The land of the repressed and regulated’. There are so many things that these ‘elected’ intelligencier could be doing that would be constructive, dealing with the increased gang and drug problems, or even trying to fix the transportation infrastructure, things that would benefit the community. No, they would rather wallow in the knowledge that cigarettes are behind locked doors, booze has a minimum price, and the cops can bust a homeless man for spitting.

Simon Barrett

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