The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) is issuing a call to arms to its membership to fight the “woefully” limited amount of funding being provided to Alberta municipalities to deal with the legalization of recreational cannabis.
With the official announcement coming today, just two days before legalization, AUMA president Barry Morishita is appalled at how little funding is being provided and is disappointed it didn’t include the profit-sharing municipalities have been seeking
The province has announced a two-year $11.2 million Municipal Cannabis Transition Program to help municipalities of over 5,000 who pay for their own policing with costs associated with enforcement and administration. Municipal districts and counties also aren’t eligible for funding.
Each applying municipality will receive a base of $10,000 plus additional funds on a per capita basis. Sixty per cent of the funding will be given to applicants this year and 40 per cent next year.
The AUMA was seeking $30 million for the upfront administrative and enforcement costs plus a share of revenues generated.
“It falls woefully short,” says AUMA president Barry Morishita.
In announcing the funding today, the province says they anticipate being in the red for the first two years of legalization and will work with municipalities to determine the next steps.
"Frankly, this an ongoing process as we have been saying this is the start, not the end of the process of legalization of cannabis in Alberta," says Alberta Finance minister Joe Ceci, "and we'll continue to keep apprised of the impacts through our municipal partnerships and Municipal Affairs but really this is the start and this is what we can give them to start,"
To Morishita, the problem is the province has made no effort to talk to municipalities on what the funding should look like.
“First of all, they did not share this amount, and secondly, from that time they made the announcement to the time they gave us the details there was not one single conversation that I’m aware of--certainly not with AUMA--about what it should look like,” says Morishita.
“It’s pretty hard to understand the impact if you don’t have the conversation and the lack of commitment to that is very disappointing because we should have had a solution that serves communities in Alberta, and we don’t.”
He questions why municipalities will have to apply for the funds and not simply receive them.
“I can’t believe they don't trust us to spend this pittance appropriately and then we have to provide reports. It’s just more red tape and bureaucracy that’s not necessary.”
The AUMA will be activating its membership and asking them to voice their displeasure with elected provincial and federal officials as well as opposition parties.
“This has to get better. They have to get much better at this model.”
Some of that discussion may occur at the Mid-Size Cities Mayors Caucus meeting being attended by Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung, Oct. 18-19.
Genung is awaiting more details before commenting extensively but he was glad to be informed at least some funding was coming forward. He also anticipates it will be added as a special agenda item at the Mayors Caucus
“Advocating for funding from the province to help with the costs for legalization has been on the agenda for some time. We've been talking about this as long as I've been mayor."