Fifty-nine per cent of Manitobans believe municipal governments should reap one-half or more of the province's excise-tax revenue from cannabis sales after legalization, according to a Probe Research poll commissioned by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.
The random telephone poll asked 1,000 adult Manitobans "how much, if any, of the revenue from marijuana should be earmarked for municipalities?"
A plurality of respondents, 33 per cent, said local governments should get "about half" of the revenue, with 16 per cent favouring "most of it" and 10 per cent calling for all of the province's future cannabis excise tax revenue to end up with municipalities. Nineteen per cent of respondents said municipalities should receive "less than half" of the revenue, and five per cent said municipalities should receive none.
Manitobans aged 55 and older and Manitoban homeowners were more likely to call for municipalities to get at least half the revenue, compared respectively to Manitobans age 35 and younger and Manitobans who rent their home. The poll was conducted between Nov. 23 and Dec. 14 of last year, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
The survey results show Manitobans understand the work ahead for municipalities in terms of cannabis legalization, said Association of Manitoba Municipalities president and Steinbach mayor Chris Goertzen at a press conference in Winnipeg on Thursday.
"Let's face it, a great deal of the implementation, the administration and the enforcement costs will be placed on municipalities, yet municipal budgets have been frozen at 2016 levels this year and there's no certainty for an increase in the coming year," Goertzen said.
"That is why revenue from the sale of cannabis is critical now, more than ever."
Goertzen said AMM supports a provincial-municipal revenue-sharing model proposed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which represents almost 2,000 local governments in Canada. That organization is calling for one-third of provincial cannabis excise-tax revenues to be earmarked for municipal governments.
In a December letter to federal finance minister Bill Morneau, FCM offered a preliminary estimate of the costs of marijuana legalization to municipalities: $3 million to $4.75 million per 500,000 people. That includes administration costs ranging from $750,000 to $1.5 million and policing costs ranging from $2.25 million to $3.25 million.
"Implementing this federal commitment will reverberate across as many as 17 municipal departments," said FCM president and Winnipeg deputy mayor Jenny Gerbasi at the press conference.
"There are bylaws to develop, administer and enforce, zoning and business licences to tackle," she said. "Protecting Canadians from drug-impaired drivers will require police training, equipment and public education. All of this will cost money that municipalities do not have."
The FCM call for one-third of provincial tax revenue would serve as a starting point that could be adjusted later if necessary, said Goertzen. The Association of Manitoba Municipalities is in "continued dialogue" with the province about that future tax revenue right now, he said.
Policing costs are the biggest concern for municipalities, Goertzen said.
In an e-mailed statement, Manitoba Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton said "the provinces and territories will bear the majority of costs associated with the health, social and policing implications of legalized of cannabis, including establishing the regulatory and distribution system."
"We'll continue to work with all levels of government in establishing a framework for Manitoba that takes these realities into account."
It's still unclear exactly how much revenue the proposed federal-provincial excise tax on legal cannabis will actually bring in after legalization, which is expected this summer.
The federal government initially floated the idea of splitting that tax revenue 50-50, but later reached a deal with most provincial finance ministers to share 75 per cent of the excise tax with provincial and territorial governments, who will then pass on a portion to municipal governments.
Manitoba, however, did not sign onto that agreement. In an emailed statement, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said the province still has not made a decision.
"If Manitoba does not sign on to the federal framework, the federal government will only collect the federal share of the excise tax. We are currently reviewing our options, including the level and type of taxation appropriate," said Friesen.
Winnipeg civil servants are working diligently to prepare for cannabis legalization, said Gerbasi, speaking as the city's deputy mayor.
"It's certainly something that's on our minds. As a council, it's being talked about and we know they're working hard at it, and we're looking forward to hearing something soon."
Portage la Prairie mayor Irvine Ferris said his city, which will allow cannabis sales, still has a lot of questions about legalization.
"The message I've had from the majority of people in Portage that have talked to me about this is they understand there will be extra costs that we will incur because of this. They feel very strongly that the taxpayers of Portage should not be picking up these costs," he said. "These costs should be paid for by the revenue produced from the sale of cannabis."
Solomon Israel grew up in Boston, the son of two native Winnipeggers.
Updated on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 4:12 PM CST: adds statements from province and federal governments