Municipalities use poll to push province for pot revenue

Municipal leaders in Manitoba are pressuring the provincial government to share revenues from taxes on legalized marijuana, and they say a new poll suggests a majority of Manitobans agree.

Poll suggests Manitobans recognize additional pressures of legalized cannabis, AMM president says

The poll suggests more than half of Manitobans support giving at least half of the total tax revenue from marijuana sales to municipalities. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

Municipal leaders in Manitoba are pressuring the provincial government to share revenues from taxes on legalized marijuana, and they say a new poll suggests a majority of Manitobans agree.

Association of Manitoba Municipalities officials said at a news conference Tuesday that they agree with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that local governments should get at least a third of total tax revenue from sales of legalized cannabis. 

The Manitoba association commissioned a Probe Research poll that asked 1,000 Manitobans how much, if any, of the revenue from legalized cannabis should be shared with municipalities.

Probe Research says 59 per cent of people who responded to the poll said municipalities should get at least half of the money, while 24 per cent said municipalities should get less than half.

Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Chris Goertzen released the results alongside Federation of Canadian Municipalities president and Winnipeg deputy mayor Jenny Gerbasi. The national federation has pushed for municipalities to receive a third of revenue from pot sales to help cover anticipated costs for policing, bylaw enforcement, zoning and other expenses related to legalization.

'Pretty convincing numbers'

About a quarter of respondents said municipalities should get most or all of the revenue — 16 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively — while 16 per cent of respondents were unsure.

"These are some pretty convincing numbers. I'm encouraged by these results, because it tells me that our citizens understand the work ahead for municipalities," said Goertzen, who is Steinbach's mayor.

Adults age 55 and older (66 per cent) and those age 35 and younger (54 per cent) were most likely to support giving at least half of the revenue to municipalities. Homeowners (66 per cent) were more likely to support giving at least half of revenue to municipalities than renters (55 per cent).

Goertzen said policing costs loom largest among the expected pressures on municipal budgets.

A written statement from Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton said the Progressive Conservative provincial government plans to work with all levels of government and said no revenue-sharing split has been agreed upon yet.

"The reality is the provinces and territories will bear the majority of costs associated with the health, social and policing implications of legalized cannabis, including establishing the regulatory and distribution system," said Wharton.

"We'll continue to work with all levels of government in establishing a framework for Manitoba that takes these realities into account."

'One-third is fair': Gerbasi

Gerbasi said the federal government has already indicated support for sharing up to 75 per cent of total revenue with the provinces, on the condition that a significant portion of that is shared with municipalities.

"We believe that one-third is fair and achievable nationwide," she said. "This is the beginning of a dialogue between three levels of government, and what we're saying is we are trying to make sure that we can keep citizens across this country safe and well-served as they bring in this new policy."

Manitoba was the only province that did not sign on to an agreement on tax revenue sharing with the federal government back in December.

"We know that this has never been about revenue generation. This is about the ability that we have to cover our costs. At that revenue-sharing agreement, it means we have more work to do," Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said at the time.

Goertzen said the dialogue with the provincial government continues, but no firm agreement on revenue sharing has been made.

"But we look forward to working with them in partnership, because these are our communities. These are provincial communities, these are municipal communities, and it's all the same community, and we want to make sure that they're safe," he said.

The pollsters mentioned policing costs in the preamble to the question.

"The provincial government will soon be receiving new revenues from the legalization of marijuana. There is some debate over where this new money should be spent. Municipalities have asked for a share of the revenue from marijuana sales to offset policing costs. In your view, how much, if any, of the revenue from marijuana should be earmarked for municipalities?" respondents were asked.

The poll was conducted by telephone using random digit dialling, including landline and wireless phone numbers, between Nov. 23 and Dec. 14. The results are considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from Laura Glowacki