Weed revenues on Edmonton mayor's wish list for Ottawa trip

Weed revenues on Edmonton mayor's wish list for Ottawa trip

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson will have a wish list in hand when he goes to Ottawa this week to make a final pitch for this year's federal budget.

Money for housing, transit, green infrastructure, and yes, cannabis, are on that list.

The federal government has said it will share the revenues from marijuana sales with the provinces — 25 per cent for Ottawa, 75 per cent for the provinces.

But cities around Canada are bracing for some huge costs when marijuana is legalized this summer. 

Edmonton estimates it will spend about $4 million a year for extra staff to enforce bylaws associated with legalized weed.

That's on top of the extra cost for policing, estimated at $5 million to $7 million a year.

Iveson plans to ask federal officials for help.

"We don't want to be in the position that we have to raise property taxes to handle the implications of legalization of cannabis," Iveson told CBC News Tuesday.

"There's a new revenue stream accruing at legislatures across the country and in Ottawa that could — and should — cover it."

Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht has said police may not be ready to deal with legalization by the summer. Iveson agreed the impact will be clear from the start.

"We know that impaired driving is going to be very complicated, and that the paperwork around that and testing new laws and enforcement mechanisms is going to be very onerous for police."


On his trip to Ottawa, Iveson also plans to press the feds to follow through with some promised investment to fix social housing.

"That investment really needs to be accelerated," Iveson said.

"Repair? That was needed 10 years ago," he said. "We really need those dollars to start to flow in this fiscal year."

Iveson pointed out that housing projects will create jobs constructing more energy efficient buildings, which in turn will help the city reach its climate goals.

Provincial budget

The province hasn't said when it will unveil its budget, but Iveson has already sent a letter to Finance Minister Joe Ceci with his recommendations.

He's looking to the province to match the $1.5 billion investment given to Calgary for its Green Line LRT.

The Alberta government invested $176 million for the first phase of Edmonton's Valley Line LRT. 

Iveson said an equal investment for Edmonton, on top of federal dollars, will be sufficient for further transit development.

"That's more than enough money to build the entire west LRT with additional grade separation," Iveson said of the Valley Line LRT. "And have money left over to invest in other major transit projects around the city."

The federal Liberal government is expected to release its 2018 budget on Feb. 27.