B.C. Premier John Horgan said he expected his first ministers’ meeting in Ottawa to deal with moving marijuana sales away from an “untested, unregulated and unsafe product” to a safe model, not to argue about Ottawa’s surprise proposal to impose a national excise tax on it.
“We were surprised to learn that the federal government also believes, not only do we need to control and regulate the distribution of marijuana, but they see it as an opportunity to raise revenue, and that was a shock to everyone around the table,” Horgan said Wednesday.
Recreational marijuana sales are to be legalized July 1, 2018, and federal officials chose the conference in Ottawa this week to reveal a proposed 10 per cent excise tax on marijuana sales. The revenue would be split 50-50 with the provinces where it is sold.
“We made it abundantly clear that the costs to provinces and local governments seem to be rising, and we didn’t see a role for the federal government in terms of taking revenues away from providing services to people,” Horgan said.
In language unusually strong for federal-provincial relations, Horgan said the task is “to make sure that kids don’t get access to marijuana, to make sure that the distribution system is safe and fair, and that the regulation of the product, which will be done largely at the provincial level, largely at provincial cost, should not be an opportunity for the federal government to collect revenue.”
The meeting also dealt with trade talks, both on renewing the North American Free Trade Agreement and the softwood lumber discussions that are particularly vital to B.C.’s trade with the U.S.
Horgan said he is satisfied that B.C. trade representative David Emerson and federal negotiators are proceeding with both, despite attention being diverted by U.S. President Donald Trump’s provocative statements on trade with Mexico dominating headlines.