03/04/2013 12:30 EST | Updated 05/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan Drinking Age Won't Change To 18, Government Says


REGINA - Saskatchewan is saying no to lowering the legal drinking age to 18, even though some members of the government's own party want the change.

Donna Harpauer, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, says people will still have to be 19 to drink legally in the province.

"There was arguments given quite compellingly on both sides," Harpauer said Monday at the legislature.

"The general consensus, however, among the main stakeholder groups and the majority of the people who corresponded with my office or other MLA offices is that the legal drinking age in Saskatchewan should remain at 19 years.

"There have been many reasons provided as to why ... most of them centred of course around issues of young people drinking, and drinking and driving."

Harpauer said she heard from groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but the concern was also raised by the city of Prince Albert and northern communities, where there are issues with substance abuse.

Dale Larsen with the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police said the chiefs back the government's decision.

"We know that young people are already involved in a disproportionate amount of incidents involving alcohol, so allowing young people to legally consume alcohol earlier would only make it worse," Larsen said in a news release.

Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec have 18 as the drinking age.

Young people in Saskatchewan communities that are close to Manitoba and Alberta have been known to cross provincial boundaries to drink. But Harpauer said neighbouring provinces having a lower drinking age is not "a compelling enough reason" for Saskatchewan to follow.

The question was being considered after delegates at the Saskatchewan Party's annual convention last fall voted in favour of reducing the drinking age by one year.

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