Winkler ignoring provincial deadline, will not vote on allowing pot shops to operate

Winkler says the province has not shared enough info to make an informed decision about recreational pot shops. File / Global News

Municipalities in Manitoba have been given until Friday, Dec. 22 to vote on whether to allow retailers to sell recreational pot in their communities.

But Winkler plans to ignore that deadline, citing a lack of information from the province.

The Pembina Valley Reeves and Mayors held a meeting Dec. 11 to discuss the provincial preparations for pot legalization, chaired by Winkler Mayor Martin Harder.

He said that each community emerged with its own set of concerns that will need to be addressed, but said Winkler will not be bound by what he called a ‘fictitious’ deadline.

“I believe it’s not unfair for us to say, ‘No, we will not respond by the 22nd, we will not be driven by that,” Harder explained to 680 CJOB’s Geoff Currier. “We are not saying that we will or will not participate, that’s not the issue. We are being asked to buy a car that has absolutely no parts in it. We’re not particularly happy about it, and just out of principle we will not respond by the 22nd of December.”

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Harder said he agrees with the province when it says Ottawa is moving too fast on legalizing pot, but said it’s unfair for the province to pawn that burden off to the municipalities without giving them more information.

“There is this deadline, but at the same time they say you’re going to be able to have a plebiscite over the next four years if you want to. We need some details,” Harder explained. “There is going to be a significant cost, there’s going to be a social balance that needs to be taken on. We want to be open. Give us more details so that we can make this decision.”

Gimli was the first community to vote no to recreational pot shops, for much of the same reasoning that led Winkler to abstain from voting. On Monday, Mayor Randy Woroniuk pondered that they may have rushed into that decision.

“I think Harder is being prudent. I’m seeing in this community that this has become divisive, and it’s something our community shouldn’t be divided about,” Woroniuk said. “I wish we would have taken that extra time. Unfortunately, we didn’t. We thought, ‘Let’s make this decision.’ But understand, this is not ‘no’ forever, it’s only a deferment until we get more information.”

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READ MORE: Manitoba municipality votes ‘no’ to pot

The province has decided to hold out on a federal pot deal, so Harder has indicated that until the province gets back to him about what pot sales will mean for his community financially, they won’t go back to the table to vote.

“Fingers were pointed at us for years when we were a dry community. We are not going to be a dry community as far as cannabis is concerned,” Harder said. “We full well know that cannabis and many other drugs are being used in Winkler. It’s not that we’re keeping it out. How are we going to be able to handle it down the road? We just don’t have enough time to figure it all out.”

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