‘It feels rushed’

Man­i­toba fi­nance min­is­ter wants feds to give prov­inces more time to le­gal­ize pot

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - BUSINESS - BY ANDY BLATCH­FORD

Man­i­toba’s fi­nance min­is­ter says he’s feel­ing rushed by the Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s July 2018 time­line for le­gal­iz­ing re­cre­ational mar­i­juana and he wants more time.

Cameron Friesen said Mon­day that with the clock tick­ing there are still many unan­swered ques­tions on is­sues like pub­lic safety, en­force­ment and find­ing le­gal sup­plies of mar­i­juana.

Prov­inces, he ar­gued, are re­spon­si­ble for much of the work and the “very real” costs needed to cre­ate a reg­u­lated cannabis mar­ket.

Speak­ing in Ot­tawa be­fore a fed­eral-pro­vin­cial fi­nance min­is­ters meet­ing, Friesen said he had al­ready raised the idea of an ex­ten­sion with fed­eral Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau.

Friesen didn’t re­veal how much ex­tra time he’s hop­ing for, but said he ex­pected the is­sue to come up dur­ing the talks.

“In re­spect of a July 1, 2018, dead­line, we’re con­cerned and we’ll ex­press that up­stairs - it feels rushed,” Friesen told re­porters be­fore en­ter­ing the meet­ing.

“This is a very sig­nif­i­cant shift in how we’ll op­er­ate and we need to have that ad­e­quate time to de­velop the tools that we will need as a prov­ince to be able to im­ple­ment this the cor­rect way.”

Fi­nance min­is­ters from across the fed­er­a­tion are meet­ing to dis­cuss sev­eral eco­nomic is­sues, in­clud­ing how best to tax Canada’s forth­com­ing le­gal pot in­dus­try.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion in April with a goal of le­gal­iz­ing and reg­u­lat­ing the use of re­cre­ational pot by July 1, 2018.

Pot tax­a­tion is ex­pected to stay low to en­sure the reg­u­lated mar­ket squeezes out the il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

But law­mak­ers have yet to of­fer de­tails on how tax rev­enues could be shared be­tween prov­inces and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Ot­tawa has sig­nalled it would like to reach a “co-or­di­nated ap­proach” with the prov­inces on cannabis tax­a­tion.

Pro­vin­cial min­is­ters have said they in­tend to push the feds to en­sure they re­ceive a share of pot-re­lated tax rev­enue that fairly re­flects the added costs prov­inces will have to as­sume on the road to le­gal­iza­tion.

On his way into Mon­day’s meet­ing, On­tario Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa in­sisted he had yet to con­sider how much pot-re­lated rev­enue his prov­ince could bring in be­cause he’s been more con­cerned about en­sur­ing le­gal­iza­tion is han­dled prop­erly.

“We’re go­ing to be ask­ing for fair­ness and flex­i­bil­ity, so that when there are some possible rev­enues that come from this that it’s prop­erly shared,” Sousa said.

Que­bec Fi­nance Min­is­ter Carlos Leitao said he an­tic­i­pated “an in­ter­est­ing and calm dis­cus­sion” about cannabis.

“We want just to make sure that any sys­tem that is put in place is eq­ui­tably dis­trib­uted amongst the prov­inces,” Leitao said.

“The prov­inces are go­ing to have to shoul­der most of the costs of putting in place reg­u­la­tions, so we should also have most of the rev­enue.”

Friesen said a cannabis work­ing group has been as­sess­ing the next steps on key is­sues like tax­a­tion, con­sump­tion, so­bri­ety tests and pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns.

“We can’t have a half-baked cake here,” Friesen said. “We have to make sure that all of this anal­y­sis is done.”

CP PHOTO/FRED CHARTRAND

Fed­eral Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau, cen­tre, along with his Deputy Min­is­ter Paul Ro­chon, left, and Deputy Gover­nor of the Bank of Canada Carolyn Wilkins, right, as they pre­pare to meet with pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial fi­nance min­is­ters in Ot­tawa, Mon­day.

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