Melanie Bethune

Council under the influence

By Ashley Grey, January 29 2015 —

Alcohol and work should never mix. Yet last week’s city council meeting wasted time arguing whether councillors should be able to drink on the job.

The fact that this is even being discussed is embarrassing to our city. Instead of focusing on important municipal issues, councillors spent the meeting tattling on each other. 

Accusations of alcohol and drug use flew around the room in a style suited for reality television. Mayor Naheed Nenshi, as mediator, reminded the councillors that they aren’t in “junior high.” Like the Rob Ford scandal, these accusations made national news, embarrassing Calgarians.

Most companies already have a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol. In fact, city bureaucrats are banned from drinking on the job. But city councillors aren’t city employees and can escape this rule.

It’s reasonable to expect that councillors make their judgment calls sober. When council meetings aren’t imitating soap operas, they discuss issues like transit, tourism and taxes. Each councillor represents a portion of Calgary, and one of these councillors represents you. I don’t want councillors impaired when they’re discussing important issues.

I expect people who make decisions on my behalf to make them with clarity of mind. No one else is allowed to drink on the job. Do your professors pregame with a swig of whiskey before lecturing? Of course not, because they would be fired if they did so. The people in charge of your education manage to work without the help of alcohol. It’s reasonable to expect the same of city council. 

Ward 4 councillor Sean Chu argued that working weekends and holidays should give councillors the right to a drink every now and then. But liquor retailers, bartenders and servers all work weekends and holidays and still aren’t allowed to drink on the job. 

Ward 1 councillor Ward Sutherland questioned whether or not he could have a glass of wine at community events. As a voter, I say no. Drinking doesn’t always equal intoxication, but drinking always equals impairment. Any amount of alcohol can affect a person’s judgment and alcohol is not a necessity, especially while at work. Councillors should work to represent their constituencies as best as possible. 

Ultimately, council decided to tighten the rules controlling liquor consumption for city councillors. They banned liquor on the job, except for some controlled drinking at special functions.

While the rest of Canada giggles at our politicians, Calgary should look ahead to 2017. Municipal elections mean we can keep our council around or kick them to the curb. We should be looking for hardworking, professional candidates who represent our beliefs and values at city hall — not candidates who can’t put a cork in their drinking habits.

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