Cannabis tax revenue will cover cost of marijuana enforcement in Calgary, says Nenshi

Should cannabis revenues flow to municipalities as expected, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city will be able to cover the cost of enforcement once marijuana is legalized later this year.

Federal budget documents say majority of cannabis tax revenues should flow from provinces to municipalities

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to reporters about the federal budget on Tuesday. Nenshi said he was happy to see funding for opioid addiction treatment. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Should cannabis tax revenues flow from the federal to provincial to municipal governments as expected, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city will be able to cover the cost of enforcement once recreational marijuana is legalized later this year.

"It was important to note we did hear from the minister of finance that the intent of the tax split on cannabis is really that those revenues are supposed to flow to municipalities and local communities," Nenshi told reporters Tuesday while responding to the federal budget.

"We just want to highlight that for the province of Alberta, that we are expecting that we will be able to more than cover the costs of enforcement, which largely come to the City of Calgary going forward."

​Budget documents released Tuesday say "It is the federal government's expectation that a substantial portion of the revenues from this tax room provided to provinces and territories will be transferred to municipalities and local communities, who are on the front lines of legalization."

The federal government announced in December that 75 per cent of tax revenues from the sale of marijuana will go to the provinces — and in turn flow to cities — and 25 per cent will remain with the feds.

Under the deal, the federal portion of tax revenues will be capped at $100 million a year, which is based on a projected $400 million a year in total tax revenue, with any dollars collected above and beyond that shared by the provinces.

Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin said the money will help them deal with issues facing those who are disadvantaged. 

"If revenue comes back in and we are able to use that money to help deal with our vulnerable populations, then that will be very important to us, so we are able to deal with the issues that we are facing today," he said at the Calgary Police Commission meeting. 

Funding for opioid treatment

Nenshi said he was pleased to see much-needed money set aside in the budget to deal with the growing opioid epidemic in Canada which has claimed thousands of lives in recent years.

​The budget commits $231.4 million over five years — including a $150-million emergency fund for provinces to launch treatment programs. The budget also has set aside money for First Nations communities to address substance abuse, including opioids.

"I was really happy to hear him say the word treatment, because we need to work on all four elements of the drug reduction strategy — that's prevention, enforcement, harm reduction and treatment — but when he asked, 'where could the money really go?' I said, 'today, I'm really interested in funding treatment beds,'" said Nenshi.

"Because what we know about people who have addictions, the moment you feel strong enough that you want to make a change, you have to have that treatment bed available for you, you can't wait three days or three weeks or three months or three years for that treatment bed. If that money starts flowing we will be ready."

Economic development needed in Alberta

Alberta must also be front and centre in any conversation around economic development, said Nenshi.

"While the economy in Canada is generally firing on all cylinders, that's still not true of Alberta," he said.

"We're still in a fragile economic recovery. Even though our job numbers are looking better, I'm still concerned that we're looking at a jobless recovery and I'm going to really be pushing hard with the federal government to say, 'you know, at a time when the rest of the country is doing pretty well, you really have to focus your economic development efforts, your innovation efforts, your foreign direct investment efforts on Alberta.

The federal new budget calls for $21.5 billion in new spending over six years, with billions set aside for  science and research and more than $1 billion for longer parental leave — if both parents share the leave.

There's also more money for working Canadians with low incomes, as well as cybersecurity and border control.

The deficit for the next year is projected to be just over $18 billion, which includes a $3 billion contingency fund.

There was no info included in the budget documents around how or when it will be balanced.

With files from Elissa Carpenter