MANITOULIN—While two Western Manitoulin municipalities have decided to allow for the opening of cannabis retail stores in their municipalities, another Island council has decided to wait until it receives input from its residents before making a final decision.
At a Gore Bay council meeting this past Monday, council unanimously voted in favour of opting in and allowing retail cannabis stores to open in town.
“My recommendation is that we should opt in,” stated Gore Bay councillor Ken Blodgett at the council meeting this past Monday. “I read the minutes (of the town general government committee meeting November 28) and I agree with Ron (Lane) that we should opt in.”
Councillor Blodgett noted that taking into consideration the population in the town of Gore Bay, the town would receive approximately $10,000 from the province to opt in, and if the town opted in later this amount would be less. He stressed, “anything that could potentially bring more businesses in town, and bring people here, I would be in favour of. It’s legal, so why not allow a business to see it in town.”
“I agree,” stated Councillor Patricia Bailey.
At the general government committee it had been explained municipal councils have until midnight on January 22, 2019 to adopt a resolution to opt out of the program to allow retail cannabis stores. If municipalities do not opt out they will automatically, by default, be opted in. Former Mayor Ron Lane expressed his opinion at the November committee meeting that he felt it would be a good idea for the town to opt in as it would be an economic benefit to any municipality and it is important to ensure the monies come forward from the province to offset administrative costs associated with the same.
Town clerk Annette Clarke explained that Ontario municipalities have to opt in or out by January 22, and if the town does not opt out they will be automatically opted in.
Councillor Paulie Nodecker asked about the funding being provided to municipalities who opt in, and Ms. Clarke explained the funding provided can’t go into general revenues. It has to go toward things like cannabis education for the public and policing of bylaws.
Mayor Dan Osborne indicated council’s next regular council meeting is January 14 which allows time for the final decision having to be made by the deadline.
Gore Bay council voted unanimously in favour of opting in and allowing for retail outlet cannabis stores to be opened in Gore Bay.
“Our council voted unanimously in favour of opting in,” stated Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island, after the newly-elected council discussed and voted on the issue at its regular meeting last week. “I had opened up the issue for discussion and we were unanimous in opting in and allowing for stores to be open (in Gordon/Barrie Island).”
“We didn’t want to limit the opportunity for anyone who wants to open a business in the municipality,” said Reeve Hayden. “And cannabis is now legal in the province.”
The issue was also discussed at a meeting of Billings Township council last week. “We should take a few seconds, for the benefit of all the people in attendance here tonight, to talk about cannabis retail store legislation that every municipality is currently facing,” said Billings Mayor Ian Anderson at a council meeting last week. “We don’t have to make a final decision tonight, and I would like to encourage our taxpayers to assist by providing us input. This issue has potential major ramifications and there are several pros and cons to it.”
Mayor Anderson noted the agenda package on this issue is outlined on the township website page, and commended township staff for putting the information together.
“I would encourage everyone to voice their opening on this issue,” said Mayor Anderson.
It was pointed out that if council decides to opt out, they will not receive payments from the province on this.
Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack said the decision made by the government to legalize cannabis is one they won’t be changing. And she indicated the proposal has the potential to be economically beneficial to the municipality.
“I realize the legislation has changed and (cannabis) is legal, but public health boards are recommending municipalities opt out,” said Councillor Bryan Barker. With Billings’ population, “we are probably looking at receiving $5,000. And the statistics around crimes around dispensaries increases in terms of petty crimes. For what we get in funding-is it worth it to the community? Community input will be vital on this issue.”
“I agree that we need more community input and we need to find out what is going on in other communities,” said Councillor Michael Hunt. He noted that Manitoulin Secondary School is located within the township.
Councillor Sharon Jackson said, “I agree with Bryan and Mike have that we need public input.”
“I really encourage input from folks in attendance and talk about this issue with your friends and neighbours,” said Mayor Anderson. “It would be better to get a cross-section of public input on this issue. We’ll persevere and make the right decision.”