Saturday October 07, 2017

Manitoba Premier warns Ottawa to 'stay the heck out' of pot taxing debate

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks out against the federal government's controversial tax reforms on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks out against the federal government's controversial tax reforms on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Listen 10:26

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is warning Ottawa to "stay the heck out" of the province's work on marijuana, joining the chorus of premiers unhappy with the Liberal government's proposal to split pot tax revenues.

"Let the provinces do the heavy lifting, which they have to do, on this massively complex file," Pallister told CBC Radio's The House.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the pitch of creating a 10 per cent excise tax to recreational marijuana sales when pot becomes legal next July 1, and splitting the revenue 50-50 with provinces and territories, to premiers at the first ministers' meeting in Ottawa in early October.

Premiers cried foul over the proposal, saying provinces have to do the brunt of work on the marijuana file. Since provinces and territories will be doing most of the work in regulating and enforcing legalization of marijuana, they should be getting most of the revenue, they argued.

Pallister said provinces will have to deal with many social costs related to marijuana use. They'll need to figure out how to protect drivers and educate young people about the dangers of driving stoned, for example.

"There's a tremendous amount of work to be done, tremendous amount of costs that have to be incurred at the provincial level, not federally," he said.

"Talking about taking half of anything at this point is really a distraction away from the work that we have to do to get ready on a really short timeline."

'An important starting point'

Finance Minister Bill Morneau told The House that there will always be different points of view when it comes to federal-provincial discussions, and that sharing tax revenues will inevitably be a point of debate and negotiation.

"We put forward a proposal that we think provides an important starting point," he said.

The overall objective, Morneau added, is to regulate marijuana so that young people don't have easy access to it and to get the black market out, which comes down to how it's priced and taxed.