Liquor rationing to stay for now
Fort Simpson council narrowly votes down plebiscite

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Nov 06/98) - The question of whether alcohol rationing should continue in Fort Simpson is one that Fort Simpson village councillors answered for constituents last Thursday.

By a 4-3 margin, council decided to exclude the issue from the byelection ballots on Dec. 14.

Debate began with some councillors voicing displeasure over the necessary wording of the questions to appear on the ballots. The liquor commission would require one question to deal with the "repealing of liquor rationing" while the other would ask about changing "regulations to liquor store hours," according to senior administrative officer Bruce Leclaire.

Coun. Gordon Villeneuve was first to object. Marilyn Napier agreed.

Then, Owen Rowe said, "Why can't we ask? Do you want things to stay the way they are? It doesn't get any simpler than that."

A recorded vote was called. Councillors Villeneuve, Napier, Rowe and Ron McCagg voted against the motion.

Mayor Norm Prevost, councillors Bob Hanna and Tom Wilson were the minority in favour.

When the motion failed, the question of a plebiscite was killed.

"I don't agree with it," Hanna said after the meeting. "I checked with Bruce (Leclaire) the next day to see if it was even legal. I said, 'Can council stop people from having a vote on something?' Apparently, it can."

McCagg, on the other hand, said he has lived in the village since the early '80s. Liquor rationing has been in place since then and it's a matter of leaving well enough alone, he suggested.

That same sentiment was expressed by Ethel Lamothe the previous evening at a public meeting. Lamothe, the manager of community wellness with the Department of Health and Social Services, said she had lived in the community in the '70s, prior to liquor rationing. With 39 alcohol-related deaths over five years, things "were really in a pitiful state," she said.

After moving away, she returned in May to find a dramatic difference since rationing has been implemented, she said.

"I was really amazed to see how healthy this community has become," she said. "I'm proud to belong to this community."