Cannabis rattles Shuswap municipalities

Cities to provide services but tax revenue up in the air.

Like many other municipalities, Salmon Arm is concerned with the approaching legalization of marijuana.

At her annual State of the City address to the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce last week, Mayor Nancy Cooper briefly broached the subject.

She referred to July, when the federal government intends to bring the proposed Cannabis Act into force.

“All municipalities in B.C. are quite concerned. It may look like what they do with alcohol and will be sold in public and private stores. We don’t know a whole lot else,” Cooper said. “Every municipality is concerned. We’ve talked to our lawyers… but we can’t do anything until we know what the province is doing.”

In Sicamous, the council has been onboard with letters being circulated by other Union of BC Municipalities member communities asking that 50 per cent of the provincial share of the cannabis tax-sharing formula be provided to local governments to support costs incurred and services provided by them.

Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz referred to tax revenues at last week’s meeting of Sicamous council: “We’re lobbying because the federal government is going to get the lion’s share, the province is going to get the rest. The responsibility lies on municipalities to deal with it, so we’re feeling municipalities should get at least 50 per cent of the revenue share made from cannabis when it becomes legalized in July.”

Affordable housing was another topic on the minds of those attending Cooper’s Jan. 26 address to the chamber.

“And here I was going to talk about the Ross Street underpass,” she said after inviting questions prior to her speech.

She received a couple of questions about housing and one about plans for Canoe from the more than 60 people attending – one of the best turnouts for the mayor’s annual presentation.

Cooper said the city has set up a task force and is coming up with a strategy to tackle the lack of housing, particularly rentals. The city has set up “special teams, like in football,” she said, and Councillors Louise Wallace Richmond and Tim Lavery are on housing.

While the city had a busy construction year in 2017, there weren’t enough rentals.

“As time went on, we did pass a number of R8 zonings,” she said, referring to the residential zoning that allows a secondary suite. “We did over 50 of those.”

Rentals are a problem all over B.C., Cooper added

“It’s a little thing called Airbnb. People may have a suite but they may not be renting it.”

She said the city likes business, and understands if airbnb helps people pay their mortgages.

“I can’t say it’s a bad thing, but we need a balancing act.”

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