It’s been almost a year since marijuana was legalized in Canada and cities in British Columbia haven’t yet received a dime from the taxes collected on sales.
And there hasn’t even been a hint as to what share of the revenue they might get or when, said a former Vancouver councillor who is now on a joint municipal-provincial committee overseeing cannabis regulation. Some cities have already spent hundreds of thousands on related costs.
It will be one of the main issues for B.C. cities and towns this week as the Union of BC Municipalities convention brings together about 2,000 civic politicians and staff with provincial ministers.
“The province started getting revenue in March from the feds, but there’s been no movement from them on sharing,” Kerry Jang said.
The federal government gives provinces 75 per cent of the excise-tax revenue it collects.
Cities have compiled a list of the money they’ve spent so far on licensing, enforcement and other issues to present to Finance Minister Carole James at a meeting this week, he said. Mr. Jang said those numbers won’t be public until Ms. James sees them.
Vancouver has had to develop land-use policy regulating where stores can go, as well as the lengthy process of licensing dispensaries and wrestling with dispensaries that continued to operate without licences.
Mr. Jang said almost every city will have expenses, no matter their stand on allowing cannabis stores. He said several other provinces have already worked out revenue-sharing agreements with their cities.
Cannabis revenue is one of the areas of tension between the province and municipalities this year. About half a dozen cities and towns have put forward resolutions expressing their concern about the way the province has unilaterally made decisions about issues affecting them without any consultation or even warning.
Both Maple Ridge and Grand Forks councils have sent in motions objecting to the way the province is making decisions about supportive housing, which is geared to people who need help with mental-health or who have drug-use issues.
In Maple Ridge, where the province overruled the local council’s objections to build some supportive housing, the resolution expresses the concern that the move “set a precedent in undermining the jurisdiction of municipal councils to determine and represent the interests of their communities.” The resolution asks the province commit to working collaboratively.
The Grand Forks council is asking that BC Housing be required to get the local council’s approval before it buys any land, saying the agency “failed to consult council about the location or size of supportive housing facilities before land was purchased and designs chosen.”
In the north, four communities expressed concern about the province making surprise decisions that affect their economies.
The province’s announcement in the spring about a draft plan to protect caribou herds is part of the drive behind those motions, said Brian Frenkel, a UBCM vice-president and councillor in Vanderhoof.
“They really didn’t inform local governments about the impact and we had to communicate after the fact,” Mr. Frenkel said.
The convention is seeing a peak high for resolutions this year, says UBCM president Arjun Singh, a Kamloops councillor. The 276 resolutions, 70 more than last year, paint a picture of major concerns among the 162 cities and towns and 27 regional districts in the province.
Topics such as climate change, particularly making fossil-fuel companies pay compensation and figuring out what to do about single-use consumer items, homelessness and housing, drug and gang problems, show up multiple times.
A few cities – Victoria, Port Moody and White Rock – are asking for the power to tax vacant homes as Vancouver is now able to do.
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