Home­towns de­serve share of Cannabis Ex­cise Tax

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - GORDON BARNHART LET­TER TO THE ED­I­TOR

In De­cem­ber 2017, the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments agreed that prov­inces would re­ceive 75 per cent of the cannabis ex­cise tax rev­enues in­stead of a 50-50 split. These ad­di­tional dol­lars were to sup­port mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. But nearly one and a half years later, and more than six months since the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment has failed to pass on a por­tion of the cannabis ex­cise tax to Saskatchew­an’s home­towns.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are the or­der of govern­ment clos­est to daily lives, and as a re­sult, Saskatchew­an’s home­towns are on the front lines of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion, con­trol­ling cannabis pro­duc­tion, sales, and con­sump­tion.

Mu­nic­i­pal by­laws reg­u­late zon­ing for pro­duc­ers and re­tail fa­cil­i­ties, and where and when cannabis can be con­sumed pub­licly.

Our by­law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and build­ing in­spec­tors are the ones en­sur­ing those grow­ing cannabis in their homes are ad­her­ing to elec­tri­cal codes and re­quire­ments.

And our po­lice and con­tracted RCMP ser­vices are un­der­tak­ing in­creased en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties around pub­lic con­sump­tion and im­paired driv­ing.

The Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties es­ti­mates that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are fac­ing new an­nual costs re­lated to cannabis of up to $9.50 per res­i­dent. This is on top of ev­ery­day polic­ing, fire, and by­law en­force­ment costs that our home­towns al­ready pay to en­sure the safety of res­i­dents.

Giv­ing home­towns 33 per cent of to­tal cannabis ex­cise tax rev­enues col­lected in the province would help han­dle lo­cal costs re­lated to cannabis.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties rec­og­nize that the province is also fac­ing costs. But the pro­vin­cial govern­ment has the abil­ity to re­cu­per­ate costs through re­tail ap­pli­ca­tion fees, six per cent PST on ev­ery gram of cannabis, and the down­load­ing of en­force­ment costs to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, who are man­dated to have bal­anced op­er­at­ing bud­gets, have the op­tions of ei­ther down­load­ing the costs to res­i­dents or re­duc­ing ser­vices.

The Fed­eral-pro­vin­cial-ter­ri­to­rial Agree­ment on Cannabis Tax­a­tion, the agree­ment giv­ing prov­inces their in­creased share of cannabis tax rev­enue, rec­og­nized the need for sus­tained co­op­er­a­tion be­tween fed­eral, pro­vin­cial, and mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments and ob­li­gated prov­inces to work with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties ac­cord­ing to shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to­ward le­gal­iza­tion. Al­berta, On­tario, and Que­bec have ac­knowl­edged their obli­ga­tions and in­tro­duced tax shar­ing plans.

It is time for the Saskatchew­an govern­ment to hon­our its com­mit­ment to work with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and share the cannabis ex­cise tax with Saskatchew­an’s home­towns.

Gordon Barnhart is Pres­i­dent of the Saskatchew­an Ur­ban Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion, the voice of Saskatchew­an’s home­towns. Email: san­der­[email protected]­booster.com Mail:

30 – 4th Ave. N.W.

Swift Cur­rent, SK

S9H 0T5

Small busi­nesses have gone a full month with­out in­for­ma­tion about the grants and re­bates promised to them un­der the fed­eral car­bon tax in Saskatchew­an, Man­i­toba, On­tario and New Brunswick. The Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness (CFIB) has been ask­ing the govern­ment for de­tails about the grants and re­bates for months with­out an­swer.

“Since April 1, the govern­ment has had time to al­lo­cate mil­lions to big com­pa­nies like Loblaws for retrofits, but small firms have heard noth­ing about the sliver of fund­ing that was to be avail­able to them,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB’S pres­i­dent. “Small firms are al­ready pay­ing the tax and are re­port­ing they’ll have to ab­sorb a ma­jor­ity of the new costs. This con­tin­ued lack of clar­ity is adding to the un­fair­ness of the sit­u­a­tion.”

Nearly half of the rev­enues of the car­bon tax will come from small busi­nesses, but they can ex­pect to re­ceive just seven per cent back in the form of yet-to-be-de­ter­mined grants and re­bates.

“Not only are we con­cerned that small firms have been given zero in­for­ma­tion on the re­bates they have been promised, past pro­grams tar­geted at small busi­ness have been in­cred­i­bly poorly de­signed,” added Kelly. “We hope the govern­ment doesn’t model the small busi­ness re­bate pro­gram after the Low Car­bon Econ­omy Fund – the one that pro­vided $12 mil­lion to Loblaws.”

While the Low Car­bon Econ­omy Fund was open to firms with as few as one em­ployee, it re­quired a min­i­mum spend of $2 mil­lion for a busi­ness to be el­i­gi­ble.

“It is ridicu­lous to ad­ver­tise a pro­gram to small busi­ness own­ers that re­quires them to spend mil­lions,” Kelly said.

CFIB is ask­ing the govern­ment to can­cel the fed­eral car­bon tax and work with the four prov­inces on ap­proaches to cli­mate change that do not neg­a­tively af­fect small busi­nesses, par­tic­u­larly be­fore any con­sid­er­a­tion is given to ex­pand­ing it to Al­berta. If the govern­ment is in­tent on keeping the car­bon tax as is, it must pro­vide grants and re­bates equal to the con­tri­bu­tions that small busi­nesses will pay into the tax. A ma­jor­ity of small firms (84 per cent) say they are al­ready tak­ing steps to re­duce their en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

“As things stand, small busi­nesses are feel­ing like the cash cow help­ing to fund the re­bates, ex­emp­tions and grants for ev­ery­one else,” added CFIB’S Mar­i­lyn Braun-pol­lon, Vice-pres­i­dent, Prairie & Agri-busi­ness. “If we all share the re­spon­si­bil­ity for ad­dress­ing cli­mate change, it is deeply un­fair to pass the bill to SMES.”

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