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Municipalities seeking share of Cannabis NB revenues to offset amalgamation costs

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N.B. municipalities calling on province to share Cannabis NB revenue
WATCH: New Brunswick municipalities are calling on the province to share some of the revenue generated by Cannabis NB as a way to cover some of the expenses generated by municipal reform. Suzanne Lapointe reports – May 23, 2023

Almost six months after New Brunswick’s sweeping local governance reforms have taken effect, municipalities are struggling to keep up with the added costs.

“There’s new economic development mandates through the regional service commissions that are going to be paid for by municipalities, there’s tourism, there’s regional recreational infrastructure that’s going to be cost shared…” Dan Murphy, executive director of the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick (UMNB) said in an interview on Tuesday.

Local governance reforms merged New Brunswick’s previous 340 local entities into 89 as of January.

The provincial government announced it was investing $3.1 million into helping newly-amalgamated communities cover costs associated with branding and signage related to the new names on Tuesday.

Murphy said this was good news, but the municipalities haven’t received any financial help from the provincial government to deal with the other costs of amalgamation.

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“There’s been an increased amount of responsibilities but the revenue hasn’t followed the responsibilities so there’s lots of need for extra support,” he said.

His organization, as well as the Association francophone des municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick (AFMNB), is calling on the government to honour a 2018 election campaign promise to share Cannabis NB revenue with municipalities.

“The Premier told us that as soon as they make a profit with cannabis taxes they will be ok to share with us some of this money,” AFMNB President Yvon Godin said on Tuesday.

Cannabis NB has been turning a profit since late 2019.

“And we are waiting, we are asking every year to see if they can help us with that but the answer we received was not positive,” he said.

Department of Finance spokesperson Alycia Bartlett told Global News in an e-mailed statement that : “There is still no plan to share revenues related to legal cannabis retail, and municipalities haven’t demonstrated they have new costs connected with the legalization of cannabis. ”

The province received $10.9 million in cannabis duty for the 2021-2022 fiscal year alone.

Murphy called that statement “disappointing.

He said in addition to amalgamation and municipal reform, New Brunswick municipalities have been growing at record rates, which also comes with additional costs.

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“We need to have those revenue tools so we can meet the demand for services,” he said.

Both Murphy and Godin plan on attending the province’s fiscal summit this fall that will focus on municipal revenues.

“We’re going to continue asking (for a share of Cannabis NB revenue),” Godin said.

Murphy said the government would be discussing municipal revenue reform at the summit, but there would be no real changes until 2025 “which could leave municipalities in a hard place,” he said.

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