Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at 3:30 p.m.
Champlain Township opts in to province’s cannabis sales plan
Champlain Township will opt in to the provincial government’s cannabis retail plan but for some council members it was a case of holding their noses as they voted.
“I would rather have a Tim Horton’s in town than a cannabis store,” said Councillor Sarah Bigelow, adding that she struggled between her concerns as a parent about public access to marijuana and her duty as a councillor to try and promote the township as open for new business growth.
Several other councillors shared Bigelow’s concern during the vote at the January 15 council session. But they wanted to make sure the township would get its share of any provincial funding assistance available to municipalities who opted in to the government’s cannabis retail licensing plan.
“In my reasoning,” said Mayor Normand Riopel, “to receive extra money from the province, we need to opt in.”
All of council agreed that the chance of Champlain Township ever qualifying for a provincially-licensed cannabis retail outlet was close to zero. The government’s guidelines for approving a cannabis retail licence application state that site locations are restricted to urban or regional areas with a population of 50,000 or more based on current census data.
What council wants to secure is money promised under the provincial legislation for municipalities which opt in to the cannabis retail plan for Ontario.
Every municipality receives an automatic $5000, whether they opt in or not, to help with the costs for updating bylaws, training municipal staff, and other expenses involved in adapting their communities to the federal legalization of marijuana which took place last year. Municipalities which chose not to become potential future retail outlet sites will get another $5000 towards the costs of preparing for the impact of marijuana use in their communities.
Municipalities which opt in to the provincial plan may get more money through an incentive offer. The Ford government promised that if the marijuana sales tax collected over the next two years totals more than $100 million by the end of 2020, then the province will share half of any surplus among those municipalities which opted in to the cannabis retail plan.
The deadline for municipalities to opt in or not is January 22. There are 144 municipalities in Ontario, but not all of them are opting in. More than a dozen, including East Hawkesbury Township in Prescott-Russell and the City of Mississauga in the Greater Toronto Region, have declared they will opt out of the province’s cannabis retail plan.