A Provincial Scan of Municipal Alcohol Policies – Quantitative Results


I Introduction
II Methods
III Results
IV Discussion
V Conclusion
VI Resources
VII References

-- Submitted by Jason LeMar, Health Promotion Consultant – Alcohol Policy, Health Promotion Capacity Building, Public Health Ontario and Gobinaa Manoharan, Product Development Advisor, Health Promotion Capacity Building, Public Health Ontario (former)

Note: The Health Promotion Capacity Building Unit of Public Health Ontario discussed the qualitative responses from the scan of Ontario MAPs in the March 20, 2015 edition available at http://www.ohpe.ca/node/16357.

I Introduction

A municipal alcohol policy (MAP) is a civic policy that aligns with provincial liquor laws and outlines the appropriate use of alcohol on local government owned or managed property. [1] The goal of a MAP is to encourage moderate, responsible alcohol consumption by changing the social norm and value placed on alcohol in a community. [2,3] The Ontario Public Health Standards outline the need to develop and implement healthy public policies that address issues such as alcohol. [4] In addition, the Prevention of Substance Misuse 2010 guidance document released by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care encourages boards of health to increase awareness of MAPs and to improve or initiate the creation and implementation of MAPs. [5] The Framework for a Canadian National Alcohol Strategy (NAS) also provides recommendations to create safer communities using local alcohol policies. [6]
A survey of public health units (PHU) was conducted to gather information about the implementation of MAPs throughout the province of Ontario. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the quantitative results received from this survey, specifically the status of MAPs across Ontario.

II Methods

An online survey was developed and distributed to each PHU in October 2014. It was requested that staff associated with the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRADG) programming complete the survey, with one coordinated response submitted per public health unit. The survey was divided into three sections: respondent information; status of active MAPs; and success and challenges with MAP development.

III Results

A total of 32 of 36 PHUs originally completed the survey, resulting in a response rate of 89%, with all regions of Ontario represented well. The remaining four (of 36) PHUs completed the survey at a later date after data analysis and report writing was completed; therefore their information was not included in the full analyses. Table 1 below shows the status of MAPs by health unit region.  

Health unit region

% with approved  MAPs

% with MAPs in development

% without MAPs

% with MAP status unknown

North West





North East










Central East + Toronto





Central West





South West






According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in 2014, there were 444 municipalities in Ontario, across all 36 PHU regions [7]. As seen in Figure 1, at the time of initial survey completion, PHU respondents indicated that 236 of 444 (53.1%) municipalities had an approved MAP, 8 (1.8%) municipalities had MAPs in development, 82 (18.5%) municipalities had no MAPs, 80 (18.0%) were unknown and 38 (8.6%) municipalities were not reported on (described in Figure 1 as “not available”).   

Figure 1: What is the status of the MAP? (n=444)

Figure 1: What is the status of the MAP? (n=444)

IV Discussion

Based on survey results, over half of Ontario municipalities have MAPs, however, only a small portion (17%) have been evaluated. Without evaluation data, it can be a challenge to provide positive case studies and models for implementing MAPs in the rest of Ontario.

Despite the benefits of having PHU involvement in MAP development, the results demonstrate that only about 50% of MAPs had PHU involvement in their development. Increasing PHU involvement across Ontario may increase the number of MAPs implemented and evaluated.

Some challenges faced during the MAP development and implementation process include concerns from communities that MAPs lead to a loss of revenue. Other challenges that need to be addressed within public health include the lack of knowledge regarding MAPs by health unit staff, staff turnover and competing priorities with other public health topics.

The challenge of working with municipalities to develop and/or amend MAPs may be overcome by conducting information sessions, which was highlighted in the survey responses as a success to MAP development. Another opportunity that was captured in survey responses was to raise awareness on the legal and liability issues which were important concerns for municipalities.

Many respondents were not aware of any community reaction or feedback regarding MAPs. Some respondents reported a mix of both positive and negative reactions to MAPs. For example, one community was pleased with their MAP as the community experienced tragedy from alcohol misuse, whereas other communities were concerned they would lose tourist dollars. Thus, more awareness of the benefits and myths surrounding MAPs is needed for communities to realize a MAPs purpose and value.

V Conclusion  

This Provincial MAP Scan survey has provided high level data on the status of MAPs across municipalities in Ontario from the PHU perspective. The qualitative responses have highlighted a number of key areas of successes and challenges in MAP development. Results from this survey will be used to shape programming and future initiatives by relevant working groups and interested stakeholders.

Feel free to contact Jason LeMar, Health Promotion Consultant – Alcohol Policy, Health Promotion Capacity Building, Public Health Ontario for further information on this project.
The full report, which can be accessed by clicking on the link below outlines all components of the survey including the context of MAPs to municipalities and PHUs, methods, results, discussion and conclusions.

Provincial Municipal Alcohol Policy Scan Report: www.publichealthontario.ca/en/eRepository/MAP_Scan_Report.pdf

VI Resources

To learn more about municipal alcohol policies, visit The Eight Steps for Developing a Municipal Alcohol Policy. http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/eRepository/AtAGlance_Eight_Steps_A...

Making the Case: Tools for Supporting Local Alcohol Policy in Ontario was produced by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Pubic Health Ontario. It aims to foster awareness about, and underscore the need for local action on alcohol-related harms, and support the development and implementation of local alcohol policies within communities across Ontario. http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/provincial_systems_support_pro...

The Municipal Alcohol Policy Guide is a practical resource for successfully managing drinking in recreational settings from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. http://www.camh.ca/en/education/about/services/camh_library/Documents/Re...

A Local Government Guide to Creating Municipal Alcohol Policy from the BC Ministry of Health in collaboration with BC Healthy Communities serves as a guide for local governments/First Nations in the planning of a municipal alcohol policy (MAP). A MAP helps local governments/First Nations manage alcohol facilities they own and manage, and reduces liability for alcohol-related problems. http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2012/creating-muni...

Framework for a Canadian National Alcohol Strategy is available at http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/SecondForumReport_en.pdf

VII References

B.C. Healthy Communities. A Local Government Guide to Creating Municipal Alcohol Policy - British Columbia. 2012 [cited 2014 August 5]. Available from: www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2012/creating-municipal-a...

Douglas, R.R., Rylett, M., Narbonne-Fortin, C., & Gliksman, L. (1999). The evolution of municipal alcohol policy: Ontario 1980-1998. Municipal World, 109(7), 21-23.

DePape, D., Leonard, M., Pollet, G. Health Benefits of Municipal Alcohol Policy: A Role for Public Health. Public Health Branch, Ontario Ministry of Health. September 1995.

Government of Ontario. Ontario Public Health Standards 2008. Toronto, ON: MOHLTC.

Government of Ontario. Prevention of Substance Misuse Guidance Document 2010. Toronto, ON: MOHLTC.

National Alcohol Strategy Working Group. Reducing Alcohol Related Harm in Canada: Toward a Culture of Moderation – Recommendations for a National Alcohol Strategy. 2007.

List of Ontario Municipalities [Internet]. Queen's Printer for Ontario; 2014 [updated 2014 Oct 21; cited 2015 Jan 19]. Available from: http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page1591.aspx