Opposition says provincial government is blowing smoke on uncertainty over cannabis revenues

After Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister blamed uncertainty around federal cannabis regulations as the reason the provincial government hasn’t introduced it’s budget implementation bill, the Opposition NDP produced a document which it says shows the province stands to make a profit from cannabis sales.

In effort to see budget implementation bill, NDP produces document showing PCs have done profit projections

Although the government says its figures are out of date, the NDP says a document it obtained through a freedom of information request shows the government has done revenue projections on the sale of legal cannabis. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The Progressive Conservative government is using the uncertainty around federal cannabis regulations as a smokescreen to delay revealing the details of its budget implementation bill, according to the Opposition Leader Wab Kinew.

The NDP is demanding to see the Budget Implementation and Statutes Amendment Act before giving up their right to ask questions under a process known as concurrence. Premier Brian Pallister has blamed uncertainty around federal cannabis regulations as the reason the provincial government hasn't introduced the bill.

"The NDP has now come up with an argument that they want to see the BITSA bill. Well the BITSA bill can only be framed accurately if we understand all the rules around cannabis," Pallister said Wednesday.

In response, the Opposition NDP produced a document Thursday which it says shows the province stands to make a profit from cannabis sales.

Manitoba is the only province that hasn't signed on to the federal cannabis tax agreement, which proposes a tax of $1 per gram or 10 per cent, whichever is higher, and split the revenue with 75 per cent going to the province and the remainder going to the federal government.

"There's no ink that has been signed," said Finance Minister Cameron Friesen. "Manitoba has indicated that we have a desire to sign onto the federal excise tax arrangement, but within that there's lots that's ongoing."

A document obtained by the NDP through a freedom of information request shows that in September 2017, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries estimated it could make as much as $12.8 million in the first year, rising to $94.8 million in the fifth year.

"The government has information in order to bring forward a budget bill. Why won't the premier bring it down immediately?" NDP Leader Wab Kinew said in question period on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after question period, Friesen said the numbers contained in the document are out of date and don't take into account total costs cannabis legalization will have on the provincial government.

"This is an old construct," Friesen said.

The estimates are based on the assumption that MLL would be the sole producer, distributor and retailer of cannabis. Instead, Manitoba has taken the approach of licensing private retailers.

"[MLL] put a number on paper, and they're OK to do that. But this is one proponent's estimate of profit, it is not a profit-loss sheet. We are saying clearly, in the early days, cost will exceed revenue," Friesen said.

Even if the numbers are old, Kinew says they show that the government has analysis like this in their hands.

"So this might be an older document, but it tells me that they have an updated document in their hands. They've been doing due diligence on this for well over a year. It's clear that they are going to make a profit when cannabis becomes legalized," he said.

Last Friday, the Legislature passed two bills related to cannabis. One bill establishes 19 as the legal age for purchasing recreational marijuana and also allows for private retailers to sell the product once it's legalized by the federal government.

Another bill restricts marijuana from being smoked in virtually all public places, including parks, sidewalks and campsites.

About the Author

Cameron MacLean

Web Writer

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, Man. where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.


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