Provinces strike new deal with feds for cannabis tax distribution

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One St. Albert politician said that the money going to the provinces from the cannabis tax is still not enough.

On Monday the provinces struck a deal with the federal government to receive 75 per cent of the taxes from the sale of cannabis. Cannabis is set to be legalized next summer. The original proposal was for equal split of tax revenue between the federal and provincial governments.

St. Albert MP Michael Cooper said that even with the provinces getting 75 per cent of the tax revenue it still won’t be enough to pay for enforcement and implementation.

“It’s a small consolation. It will cover only a fraction of the costs that the provinces and municipalities will incur in terms of implementation and enforcement,” Cooper said.

The provinces rejected the federal government’s first proposal of a 50-50 split as they said they would be dealing with the majority of the costs associated with legalization.

The deal will last for two years and has provincial and territorial governments taking home the majority of the anticipated $400 million in revenue. The maximum amount of money the federal government can collect is $100 million and anything else will be distributed to the provinces.

Provincial Finance Minister Joe Ceci said that he is pleased with the new deal with the feds but said the money still will not be enough to cover the associated costs, although the provincial government has not said how much they anticipate legalization to cost.

Ceci said he is not sure how much money the provinces will collect in the first year, as they do not know how many people will use the product.

So far, there has been no money promised to the municipalities and it will be up to the provinces to give out money to local governments.

Cooper said that many of the costs that the provinces will incur will be from training new officers, purchasing new detection equipment along with legislation around workplace safety, employment standards, traffic safety,

Municipalities will be dealing with costs associated with licensing, zoning, enforcement and inspections.

Impaired driving concerns

Cooper is also concerned about drug impaired driving and said there is no approved screening device to detect cannabis levels in those who are driving under the influence.

“Right now there isn’t an approved screening device, let alone the costs associated with acquiring the screening devices and then training police officers on how to use those devices,” Cooper said.

The MP said that there is no sign that there will be a device ready and approved for July 1.

Many provinces and municipalities across Canada have been asking the federal government to push back the legalization date to have more time to prepare.

Cooper would also like to see the government push the date back. He said that another year would help the situation but ultimately would not want to put an arbitrary deadline on the matter.

On Monday the province announced that it would be adding an AGLC markup to the drug as well as a provincial sales tax on cannabis.

Cannabis will be legal in Canada on July 1, 2018.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.