08/30/2012 11:52 EDT | Updated 10/30/2012 05:12 EDT

N.S. cabinet minister shrugs off Halifax mayor's criticism over binge drinking

HALIFAX - A Nova Scotia cabinet minister says Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly is wrong to suggest the province isn't doing enough to curb binge drinking in the city's bar district.

John MacDonell, the minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act, said Kelly's recent accusation rings hollow because he failed to back it up with any facts.

"Unless he has some numbers to back up what he's saying, I don't know where he's coming from," he said Thursday after a cabinet meeting.

Earlier this week, Kelly issued a statement saying too many people are showing up drunk at bars, where they are served more alcohol — a violation of the Liquor Control Act.

"I’m talking about the unfortunate tendency of some people to come downtown to binge-drink and cause trouble and the unwillingness on the part of the province and bar owners to nip this situation in the bud, before it spreads," he said.

He said he wants the minister and bar owners to do more to enforce the law.

"It is time those who have the authority to remedy this distressing state of affairs do so before it gets any worse," Kelly added. "As mayor, I am calling on the province, along with those bar owners and their staffs who are not obeying the law, to start being much firmer in enforcing the terms of the Liquor Control Act."

Bar owners have already condemned Kelly's comments, and MacDonell insists the province is doing its part.

"We work extremely hard to enforce our regulations," MacDonell said. "Our people are in establishments on a fairly regular basis and actually targeting ones that have a history."

Asked if binge drinking is going on, MacDonell replied: "I think it would probably be ridiculous for me to say that it never happens. We find instances where it does occur. For sure, we work hard to find those establishments that do that and see that they're appropriately addressed."