Conduct and Customs
Thanks to an abundance of natural resources and a fiscally conservative government, the province is debt-free—and got that way without raising taxes. In fact, the provincial coffers were so full of money that in 2006, each and every Albertan received a $400 check simply for living in Alberta. And in general, that makes Alberta a good place to live, work, and visit. Although Alberta has been led by a conservative government for seemingly forever, lifestyles in the main urban areas and resort towns are more liberal leaning.
Liquor laws in Canada are enacted on a provincial level, with Alberta having the most relaxed version. The minimum age for alcohol consumption in Alberta is 18 (it’s 19 in most other provinces). Additionally, the liquor industry in Alberta is privatized. This means that there are a lot more liquor stores with less restrictions (open seven days, can sell cold beer, and more).
Like the rest of North America, driving in Alberta under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense. Those convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration above 0.8 face big fines and an automatic one-year license suspension. Second convictions (even if the first was out of province) lead to a three-year suspension. Note that in Alberta drivers below the limit can be charged with impaired driving. Alberta operates a Checkstop program, which gives the Royal Canadian Mounted Police the power to stop drivers at random and test for alcohol. It is also illegal to have open containers of alcohol in a vehicle or in public places.
Smoking is banned in virtually all public places across Canada. Most provinces have enacted province-wide bans on smoking in public places, including Alberta, where the Tobacco Reduction Act is one of the strongest in Canada. In addition to banning smoking in public places, it bans tobacco displays in all retail outlets.
Gratuities are not usually added to the bill. In restaurants and bars, around 15 percent of the total amount is expected. But you should tip according to how good (or bad) the service was, as low as 10 percent or up to and over 20 percent for exceptional service. The exception to this rule is groups of eight or more, when it is standard for restaurants to add 15 to 20 percent to the bill as a gratuity. Tips are sometimes added to tour packages, so check this in advance, but you can also tip guides on stand-alone tours. Tips are also given to bartenders, taxi drivers, bellmen, and hairdressers.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition