The B.C. government is hoping Tuesday’s federal budget provides a pot of money to deal with the legalization of recreational marijuana. The province is concerned that enforcement and education costs will be far more significant than revenues brought in once the drug is available recreationally this summer.
“I am looking to make sure those costs are reflected in the budget,” said B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. “As we indicated in the last federal/provincial/territorial meeting a lot more needs to be done.”
The B.C. government is planning on allowing the sale of the drug at licensed retailers that will only sell cannabis. Anyone 19 years old or older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis in a public place, which aligns with the government’s proposed possession limit.
What to expect from Canada’s federal budget
In vehicles, cannabis will have to be in a sealed package or inaccessible to the vehicle’s occupants. People will not be allowed to use marijuana in any vehicle. B.C. is forecasting that about $75 million a year in revenues from cannabis sales.
The Federal government has promised a budget that will make Canada’s economy more resilient and less reliant upon the United States. There has been a commitment from Ottawa to deal with gangs, organized crime and illegal guns.
“We want to see the money going to where the problem is greatest,” said Farnworth. “Not just spread out so it is on a per capita basis and we will be looking very closely at the budget in that regard.”
Land or cash valuable in housing crisis
The federal budget is also expected to have some support for housing, be it a cash infusion or federal land that can be used for development. B.C. Finance Minister Carole James says she would welcome either form of support. But she is calling on Ottawa to provide specific details on housing programs, be it for owners or renters, so B.C. could look at a cash-matching program.
“It’s critical. You can just get a better bang for your buck,” said James. “The individuals in our province expect that their governments will work together, and housing is an example. If we are able to have municipal governments, First Nations government, the province and the federal government come together we can provide better support.”
Pattullo money could be on the table
The federal budget is expected to have big spending for infrastructure projects. British Columbia announced two weeks ago that it was going to foot the entire $1.3-billion bill for a new Pattullo Bridge said it would negotiate with the federal government to help cover some of those costs. B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says the province is still working with Ottawa, but doesn’t expect any specifics on Tuesday.
“I am not sure they are going to come down with specific projects. But they are obviously committed to British Columbia,” said Trevena. “The feds have a number of areas where they are funding projects. We are looking at a lot of funding pockets, funding avenues.”
Trevena says she is also expecting an announcement soon on funding for the Broadway subway line and the Surrey LRT. The province and the federal government have both committed to funding 40 per cent of those projects, with the municipalities in Metro Vancouver still trying to figure out how to fund the rest.
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