The often-quoted observation of Ben Franklin that nothing in life is certain but death and taxes could stand to be updated. In light of the current squabble over cannabis excise tax revenue, we need to add greed and hypocrisy to the list.
That’s certainly the case as we watch John Horgan’s government force B.C. municipalities to jump through hoops in an effort to access some of the tax windfall generated by the legalization of cannabis in Canada.
Back in 2017, the provinces were behaving like seagulls fighting over a dead fish as they argued that more of the federal cannabis excise tax should be directed to their coffers.
Horgan joined with his squawking counterparts to demand more of that revenue, asserting that the provinces would foot the lion’s share of the cost of regulating and enforcing cannabis laws and, as such, should get the bulk of the revenue.
They managed to win the day and secured 75 per cent of those monies.
Curiously, that victory seemed to coincide exactly with their abandonment of the principles that had guided their arguments with the feds.
B.C. conveniently forgot that many of the responsibilities for regulation had been punted to individual municipal governments who, facing an appalling dearth of clear guidelines on how to handle questions of zoning and inspection, were forced to make up and fund the development of the rules as they went along.
Municipalities like Sooke were also on the hook for enforcement and policing costs.
That’s why the Province’s request for a survey to justify any sharing of revenues was both hypocritical and self-serving.
The survey recently came back and showed that local governments were on the hook for about $11.5 million a year but, to date, the Province has shown no sign of handing over the cash.
It seems that despite the fact that some provinces like Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec have rediscovered their principles and agreed to share the revenue, B.C. still refuses to do so.
Instead, for now, at least, they seem intent on keeping the money. It’s a move that will see municipal costs added to the property taxes of people in Sooke and other municipalities.
It’s hypocrisy like this that contributes to the erosion of respect for those in power.
B.C.’s government needs to be reminded that true principles are not conditional upon whether it’s you who benefits from their application.