Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2018
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Dave Mabell
Page: A3


Funds from marijuana taxes will also help, says mayor

Federal funds targeting the opioid crisis will be welcome in
Lethbridge. And Mayor Chris Spearman says a share of the newly
announced taxes on marijuana will also help, when its use becomes
legal later this year.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau included $231 million in his new budget
- - spread over five years - to support communities battling an opioid

"Maybe we can get some relief," Spearman said, pointing to the steps
the City has taken to respond to the situation. One initiative, a
safe-use centre where drug users can find medical help and
counselling, opened Wednesday.

Spearman says about $20 million of those federal funds have already
been earmarked for Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia - the three
hardest-hit provinces.

At the same time, the mayor says, Lethbridge is also preparing for the
impact of legalized marijuana. That also has cost implications,
including police officer training and the purchase of roadside testing
equipment - but federal funds should be available.

"They're expecting as much as $1 billion from cannabis taxes," he

Lethbridge will continue to benefit from another federal tax, Spearman
says, as expected.

The budget confirmed refunds on Ottawa's excise tax on gasoline will
continue flowing to cities and towns. They've been used on a number of
projects and Spearman says confirmation that they'll continue was expected.

What's really needed, the mayor says, is more federal support for
affordable housing.

"It's a large issue in our city," despite the efforts of Housing First
and other local initiatives.

"We have people who would really benefit from it."

Asked about another federal budget focus, Spearman said he'll have to
examine the City's policy on pay equity for its male and female staff.

That national goal was cited by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, in
its critique of the new budget.

"The intent of this budget may have been to increase gender equality,"
it said Wednesday.

"Alberta business sees limited opportunities for the intended outcomes
to materialize to their full potential, when the core issues affecting
economic opportunities for all Canadians remain unaddressed."

In a release, Alberta Chambers president Ken Kobly said the new budget
is "worrisome."

"The Chamber network in Alberta does not believe the federal
government is prepared to manage the potential, and very significant,
threats facing the Canadian economy.

"These threats include tax competitiveness, competitiveness of
Canada's oil and gas sector and NAFTA negotiations."

In Edmonton, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci praised the new funding
for indigenous communities, but said the money was long overdue. He
was also pleased to see additional funding for on-reserve child
intervention services, but said there's still much more to be done.

"While these funds will go a long way towards filling that gap, we
know that outcomes for Indigenous children and families continue to
lag far behind," he said.

Despite the infusion of funding for Indigenous communities, Ceci said
the budget fell short in other areas, especially the energy sector.

"It was good to see some discussion in the budget about [oil] refining
capacity and pipelines," he said. "But I have to reiterate, it's not
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