The Manitoba government’s new “social responsibility fee” is a cash grab being wrongly imposed on the province’s First Nations, some chiefs say.
“This is a shameful approach,” said Christian Sinclair of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) in northern Manitoba.
“It disrespects our nation-to-nation dialogue.”
Sinclair says chiefs weren’t given notice of the nine per cent tax or 75 cent charge per gram to be levied by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.
Nor did they know until a news release Wednesday that retailers will also have to fork over six per cent of their revenues.
It’s a hit to their bottom lines and the relationship they thought they had with the Pallister government, added Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Dumas noted they’d be letting the premier know they weren’t happy.
“This is not the way to reconciliation,” he said.
Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen said in the release the fees would be used to pay for health, safety, education and enforcement when pot is sold over the counter.
“Our plan will help cover these provincial costs and also ensure fairness, recognizing the social responsibility retailers must share,” he said.
But Sinclair says his community’s business model did not include a provincial tax and he doesn’t think it should.
OCN has a partnership with National Access Cannabis and plans to plow the profits back into the community. Now he doubts that will happen.
Glenn Hudson, chief of Peguis First Nation – Manitoba’s largest reserve – said the way the province announced the fees was “disrespectful.”
Peguis is a partner in GrowForce Holdings Inc., which is building marijuana production facilities across Canada.
Hudson says First Nations’ leaders should be at the table when it comes to economic decisions that affect their ability to tap into industries and create revenue.
He said under Section 87 of the Indian Act First Nations are exempt from paying tax.
Recreational marijuana becomes legal this fall under a new law introduced by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.
However, each province and territory is interpreting Bill C-45 differently creating a patchwork of rules and regulations, along with taxes and fees, for consumers across the country.