Saskatoon mayor calls for pot cash to pay local bill

Saskatoon’s mayor is calling for a fair share after Ottawa cut a deal with the provinces and territories, allowing them to keep 75 per cent of revenues from legalized marijuana.

Municipalities will face real costs for Ottawa's marijuana police, says Charlie Clark

Saskatoon mayor Charlie Clark believes one third of any tax generated by legal marijuana should flow to cities. (CBC)

Saskatoon's mayor is calling for a fair share after Ottawa cut a deal with the provinces and territories, allowing them to keep 75 per cent of revenues from legalized marijuana. 

What we want to do is make sure it is safe.- Charlie Clark 

"It's not a cash grab, it's just a matter of getting the resources you need so that we are not left holding the tab of the decision that's been made by the federal government," Charlie Clark said in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

Clark said local governments should receive one-third of pot revenues.  

"We have zoning bylaw issues, we have business licensing issues, and we have all kinds of things," said Saskatoon's mayor.

Saskatoon's mayor worries that local governments will be left picking up the tab for Ottawa's decision to legalize marijuana. (David McNew/Getty)

Municipalities have much work to do 

Clark said the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which acts as a collective voice for local governments, has identified more than a dozen different areas of responsibility that cities like Saskatoon will have to address to prepare for the legalization of pot.

It's important work, he said, and it comes with a cost.

"What we want to do is make sure it is safe, that it is managed effectively, and that the rules are clear."

The provincial government is on record in suggesting that one of the big upfront costs will come on the policing side, and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer went so far as to suggest that more police officers may need to be hired to help with pot's transition from an illegal substance to a legal one.

"Everybody agrees that policing costs are a significant portion of what is going to be required," said Clark, but wasn't 100 per cent sure if more police officers would be needed.

Waiting for the province 

One of the real challenges for municipalities in Saskatchewan, Clark said, is the uncertainty, and inability to plan because the province has been slow to release its plan in how it will handle the issues of legalized marijuana.

"We are not exactly clear on what the provincial regime is going to be."

Clark said he hopes the Saskatchewan government's plan will become clear soon, so that local government can begin working to understand what the true costs will be. 

About the Author

Danny Kerslake

Danny Kerslake is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio stations across Western Canada. In his career with CBC Saskatchewan, Danny has reported from every corner of the province and has lived and worked in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. Danny is a newsreader and digital AP for CBC Saskatoon.

with files from Saskatoon Morning