Cities lost in pot cash haze in le­gal­iza­tion drive

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - MEGAN STACEY

There may be as much as a bil­lion dol­lars in tax rev­enue at stake as Canada read­ies for le­gal­ized mar­i­juana next sum­mer. The cut for cities? So far, zero. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties may be left in the cold when it comes to shar­ing in the cash from le­gal­ized pot sales, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment propos­ing a 10 per cent ex­cise tax – or $1 per gram, which­ever is higher – to be split evenly be­tween the prov­inces and the feds.

Lit­tle has been said about how many, if any, tax dol­lars will flow to cities bear­ing the bur­den of costs as­so­ci­ated with polic­ing, li­cens­ing and en­force­ment of le­gal mar­i­juana sales.

South­west­ern On­tario lead­ers are none too pleased.

“Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties aren’t even in the equa­tion. It’s this pa­tron­iz­ing ap­proach that the prov­inces take,” Sar­nia Mayor Mike Bradley said Mon­day. “They pass out the gruel when they want to.”

He’s frus­trated that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties weren’t even men­tioned in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s plan for mar­i­juana tax­a­tion, an­nounced on Fri­day.

“We’ve got all the is­sues in im­ple­men­ta­tion. We’re the ones that have to deal with the im­me­di­ate im­pact in the com­mu­nity,” he said.

An ex­cise tax, linked to cer­tain goods like gaso­line, would be added to pot prices be­fore sales tax. That means a gram of mar­i­juana that costs $8 to pro­duce would sell for $9 plus HST in On­tario. In to­tal, that gram would cost $10.17 with ex­cise and sales tax.

Lib­eral MP and for­mer Toronto po­lice chief Bill Blair, who’s been tasked with helm­ing the gov­ern­ment’s pot plans, told re­porters that the to­tal rev­enue, in­clud­ing ex­cise duty and sales tax, could be as high as $1 bil­lion.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of On­tario is ad­vo­cat­ing for cities and towns to get their fair share.

“We’re go­ing to see the brunt of the work in (le­gal­iza­tion). So we’re telling both lev­els of gov­ern­ment that we’re go­ing to be need­ing some re­sources to go with the re­spon­si­bil­ity we’re go­ing to be given,” Lynn Dollin, pres­i­dent of AMO, told The Free Press Mon­day.

Lib­eral MP Peter Fragiskatos (Lon­don North Cen­tre) hit back against the crit­i­cism, say­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is pay­ing at­ten­tion to the needs of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“We are ac­tively lis­ten­ing,” he said. “We are not ig­nor­ing the con­cerns of cities.”

It’s much too soon to be ring­ing alarm bells, Fragiskatos said, point­ing out that Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment kicked off a month-long con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod on the pro­posed tax plan. Pro­vin­cial and fed­eral fi­nance min­is­ters are slated to meet in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal af­ter con­sul­ta­tion closes Dec. 7.

For south­west­ern On­tario may­ors like Bradley, the frus­tra­tion lies in the un­known.

“We’re in a cloud of smoke right now try­ing to fig­ure out what’s go­ing

to hap­pen,” he said.

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