When Prince Albert council member Ted Zurakowski learned his city was supporting a wine and cheese function he felt something was not quite right.
"We have a problem with alcohol in our community," Zurakowski told CBC News Tuesday. "And for our city to sponsor an event like that out of one side of the mouth, and say out of the other side of the mouth we need to do something about that issue — on that point there I was uncomfortable."
'It just seems wrong, wrong, wrong.' - Prince Albert council member Ted Zurakowski
The event was a wine and cheese night promoted by the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame. The organization asked the city for a sponsorship contribution of $2,500.
The matter was recently discussed at city council and the event organizers pledged the city's support would not be used to purchase alcohol for the event, which is set for Friday.
Zurakowski, who added he felt somewhat alone in raising the issue, said he would follow up with city administration to have a look at sponsorship policies with an eye to exclude events with alcohol from receiving city dollars.
"It almost makes me angry when government sponsors events like that," he said. "It's hard enough when the elected reach into the pockets of the taxpayer, but to do it for an event like that, it just seems wrong, wrong, wrong."
Concern about alcohol abuse in Prince Albert has been noted, by others, in the past — including the mayor.
Police in the city have also been reporting on arrests for public drunkenness. Prince Albert has the highest arrest rate for that, in the province.
To illustrate the point: in the past four weekends (Friday nights through Sunday nights) police provided the following statistics:
- July 11: Total arrests: 56. Arrested for drunk in public: 28.
- July 4 : Total arrests: 61. Arrested for drunk in public: 37.
- June 27: Total arrests: 80. Arrested for drunk in public: 47.
- June 20: Total arrests: 70. Arrested for drunk in public: 39.