The province plans to help Nova Scotia’s municipalities with the cost linked to legal cannabis, once it lands federal funding for weed control, a conference in Halifax was told Thursday.
Provincial Justice Minister Mark Furey said expenses associated with the regulation and enforcement of legal marijuana in Nova Scotia is in “the millions of dollars.”
He acknowledged, though, “the true costs are not known, both for the province as well as the municipalities.”
“We’re just about in the final stages of (an) agreement with the federal government on federal funding,” he said. “We will direct those financial resources to those areas where municipalities have identified those needs and those priorities.”
Just when local governments can expect financial assistance with cannabis-related matters, is unknown, delegates heard at the annual convention for the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities. The conference wraps up Friday at a local hotel.
“I want to know when the province is going to receive the resources (from Ottawa) they need to pay the cost,” said Furey, a retired RCMP officer. He said suggesting when that might be, and how much money would be involved, is premature.
“I can tell you we are into the millions of dollars in expenses to set up and prepare for the legalization of cannabis,” Furey said.
“It’s going to be at least two years . . . based on the revenue generated today – and those aren’t profits, those are simply revenues – before we find a balance in the expenditures and the preparations that we had to undertake.”
Buying and using cannabis products became legal in Canada on Oct. 17. The laws vary, depending on the province or territory. Last spring, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities published a municipal guide to cannabis legalization.
Also Thursday, Chuck Porter, Minister of Municipal Affairs, addressed the delegates.
He’s the MLA for Hants West, and took over the portfolio in July when Premier Stephen McNeil shuffled the Liberal government’s cabinet.
Porter told the conference that change, for the benefit of the province’s municipalities, is good. He said he knows “change is not easy,” but added municipal governments shouldn’t be wary of considering new ways of doing things.
More regional co-operation can benefit Nova Scotia’s municipalities, Porter said.
Earlier in his political career, Porter was a councillor with the Town of Windsor.
Formerly the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the federation promotes the activities of local governments running the province’s 50 municipalities and protects the interests of those municipal units.
The umbrella organization’s members have several matters of concern including housing, municipal funding, doctor recruitment, legal cannabis use, municipal modernization and accessibility for the disabled.
New provincial accessibility legislation was passed last year. The setting of standards and their implementation won’t be happening for years, however.
One of the federation’s proposed resolutions for the conference calls for the development, over the next six months, of a better code-of-conduct model for municipal politicians.
“Questions have been raised about the value of a code if there are no consequences for those who act inappropriately,” a resolution document says. It notes “changes to the Municipal Government Act would be required to increase options for sanctions.”
Code-of-conduct guidelines have been debated by Halifax council in the past.
Last year, council agreed to undergo sensitivity training after city hall received multiple complaints about council members. The training took place about six months ago.
Halifax’s deputy mayor, Waye Mason, the councillor for Halifax South Downtown, is the federation’s new president.
The group’s conference each year attracts elected officials, municipal staffers and others to various workshops, panel discussions and exhibits. This year’s agenda includes sessions on public safety, economic development and climate change-related issues.
Nova Scotia’s civic politicians recently reached the mid-point of their term in office.
The next municipal elections will take place in October 2020.
Michael Lightstone is a freelance reporter living in Dartmouth