Campbell River city council has added its voice to the call for municipal governments to get an equitable share of the tax revenue expected to come from the sale of marijuana once it’s legalized.
Council received a letter from the District of West Kelowna Monday, requesting support for lobbying efforts to get the provincial government to agree to 50 per cent of the provincial share of of the cannabis tax sharing formula being provided to local governments. “This is an adequate and equitable share to help support costs and services incurred by local governments,” the letter states.
The impact of the imminent legalization of marijuana, the letter says, includes additional social and policing costs for communities, and cites a Federation of Canadian Municipalities paper that says it “may affect policing, fire services, building codes, city planning, municipal licensing and standards, public health, social services, communications, law, etc.”
Council agreed. They also took it one step further.
“I think it’s absolutely essential,” Coun. Charlie Cornfield said. “I would move that council request both the federal and provincial governments for equitable distribution of revenue from cannabis sales to local governments be made. I think the federal government is also going to be a recipient of tax revenues and I don’t think (the sharing) should be limited to the provincial government. We need some of that revenue and I really don’t care whether it comes from the feds or the province or both.”
“It is going to increase our costs, without a doubt,” Cornfield continued. “Even if it’s just in staff time and everything else involved in the drafting of bylaws that need to come in. We need the financial support in order to carry that out.”
“I absolutely agree,” said Coun. Colleen Evans. “The challenges that are going to fall to our community and other municipalities to manage from a policing standpoint and other components … is going to require a substantial potential shift in how we manage our resources. Without proper funding to take on the downloading of these responsibilities it’s really going to be challenging for communities. I see this as our roll as councilors: supporting the public interest. We have to advocate for the right funding to allow us to perform what ultimately are going to be concerns.”
Coun. Michele Babchuk, however, while she supported the idea in concept about revenue sharing, said they should “be careful what you ask for.”
“If you want it downloaded on the municipality, ask for all the money,” Babchuk said. “I’m a little bit cautious in what we’re asking for here. I don’t know that we want to make it so loose and make it so that it’s all downloaded onto us.”
But Cornfield likened the request to “when they legitimized gaming, we went to them and said, ‘if this is what you’re going to do, we need dollars to deal with the issues associated,’ and that was set up ahead of time. When the casinos went in, we were guaranteed a share of the profits that could be applied to the community and we use those to our advantage every single year. I look at this as being similar to that.”
The motion carried easily, and a letter will be prepared and sent to both levels of government, as well as to the District of West Kelowna.