Premier John Horgan speaks at the 2017 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver. (Jesse Yuen/UBCM)

Pot, taxes and Greyhound top issues as B.C. local politicians dig into policy

Debate and voting begin in earnest at this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler

Cannabis revenue-sharing, the NDP’s payroll tax, and how to replace Greyhound bus service are among the top issues to be debated over the next few days at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler.

Hundreds of councillors and mayors have descended on Whistler for the annual convention, to vote on a higher than usual number of resolutions this year as they try to curry favour with voters ahead of October’s local election.

“The revenue-sharing is a final piece we haven’t been able to land on,” said UBCM president Wendy Booth referring to when marijuana becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17.

The main resolution asks for 40 per cent of the initial $125 million in revenue to be shared with municipalities for the first two years after legalization. Anything in excess of that would be shared 50-50.

The money would be distributed on a per capita basis, with all communities getting at least $10,000.

Also top of mind will be the NDP’s “employer health tax,” set to take effect next year.

A resolution from Lower Mainland politicians calls on the province to make the transition – from MSP premiums to a payroll tax –“cost neutral,” as many municipalities have been forced to increase property taxes to pay for it.

The resolution says municipalities with payrolls of more than $1.5 million will pay the highest rate of payroll tax, 1.95 per cent, effectively doubling their payroll costs for next year. It calls for cities and towns to get the same “selected tax breaks” given to private sector organizations.

However, Finance Minister Carole James said earlier this week municipalities should not to expect any relief on the payroll tax, nor to expect too much on cannabis revenue-sharing.

READ MORE: B.C. keeping purse strings tight as municipalities seek relief

READ MORE: Payroll, speculation tax top municipal agenda for B.C.

A final big talker this year is likely to be Greyhound’s impending pullout from everywhere except Quebec and Ontario.

Communities like Lillooet have asked the province to look at rail service to replace some soon-to-be cut bus routes.

“It is such a vital link for communities get from A to B, whether it be for visiting family or friends or the shipping of goods and medical appointments,” said Booth, adding that the UBCM convention is a time for smaller, more rural communities to get face-time with government.


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