News

Falls to push for government-run pot shop

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review

(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick file photo)

(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick file photo)

Wayne Thomson hopes his fellow city councillors will support a resolution he plans to bring forward at a Nov. 28 meeting calling on the province to set up a pot shop in Niagara Falls.

“That would increase our visitation substantially, create all kinds of jobs, and really be an economic opportunity for us,” said the veteran politician and chairman of Niagara Falls Tourism.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which will run new marijuana stores through a subsidiary, recently announced the first 14 cities where legal pot shops will be located when recreational marijuana becomes legal next July.

Niagara Falls, which welcomes an estimated 14 million visitors annually, wasn’t among them, with the closest city being Hamilton.

Being omitted from the list was a surprise to Thomson and Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, who said the Honeymoon Capital is home to some of the busiest liquor stores in the province.

The initial list of cities includes Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan and Windsor.

“You look at what’s happened in the States where it’s been legalized, the influx (of visitors) and the tourism and the business opportunity is unbelievable,” said Thomson.

“Here we have a border community which doesn’t have this opportunity across the border (in Niagara Falls, N.Y.). They’d be flooding over here, and business wise, this would be so good for the province, so good for the city, jobs and opportunities and business promotion and marketing as a result of that would be unbelievable.”

After addressing delegates at the Ontario Economic Summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake Friday, Premier Kathleen Wynne told the Niagara Falls Review the first 14 municipalities don't make up the full list of where the first 40 stores are going to be.

“It's certainly not the full list of the 80 of 150 stores, but my understanding is that there will be other municipalities that will be added to that list even for the first 40 stores.”

Asked if she anticipates Niagara Falls to be one of them, Wynne said: “I don't know. (The LCBO is) making these decisions based on the business metrics that they use to locate stores around the province.”

The LCBO, along with staff with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, will meet with representatives of the 14 cities to discuss exact locations for the stores.

The province previously announced that as many as 40 stores would open next year, with 40 more added a year later.

The province said it will identify more locations for its first batch of 40 stores in the coming weeks, but notes that all consumers will be able to access cannabis through an online retail website.

The province plans to set up approximately 150 standalone cannabis stores by 2020.

During a press conference in Niagara Friday, Wynne was also asked about a proposed federal tax scheme that would add an excise tax of $1 per gram, or 10 per cent of the final retail retail price, whichever is higher, with the revenues to be divided equally between Ottawa and the provinces.

The plan will be available for public comment until Dec. 7.

GST will be also be applied, so if the retail price of a single gram of pot is $8, consumers would pay a $1 excise tax and $1.17 in GST for a total of $10.17.

The taxes would be levied on both fresh and dried marijuana, pot-infused oils and seeds and seedlings used for home cultivation.

The 50-50 tax revenue split idea has rankled some premiers who say their governments have to do the bulk of the heavy lifting on legalization, including policing, distributing and regulating the sale of marijuana.

Asked how much provincial tax dollars she would like to see on one gram of recreational marijuana when it's legalized, Wynne did not directly answer.

“Our principles are that we need to protect young people, we need to have a safe and responsible regime here in Ontario, and we need to tackle the underground economy, the black market,” she said.

“Any tax regime that's put in place has to recognize that there has to be a balance of cost because of our need to undermine the black market, and secondly that the burden of expense is going to be felt at the provincial and the municipal level.”

Wynne said when she met with her colleague premiers and the federal finance minister at the first ministers meeting a number of weeks ago, they made it “very clear” the proposal for a $1, 50-50 tax revenue split idea “wasn't going to work” for provinces because it's the provinces and the municipalities that are incurring the costs.

“There's going to have to be a lot more discussion about what that tax regime would look like.” 

rspiteri@postmedia.com

twitter.com/rayspiteri



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