Council sets sights on $20,000 cannabis licence fee

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski speaks during an Executive Committee meeting in August. -- Herald file photo.

Prince Albert’s two new cannabis retailers will have to shell out $20,000 for the privilege, barring a major change of direction at the next council meeting.

On Monday, council voted by a 6-2 margin to approve the new policy, which will be reevaluated after 12 months. Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller and Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha both voted against the proposal.

The decision brings a close to what has been a lengthy debate, although official ratification cannot be made unless third reading passes by majority at the next council meeting.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski, who moved the amendment on Monday, said the fee would place Prince Albert “more in line” with other communities across Saskatchewan.

“We’ve been told that these fees must reflect the amount of time that administration and the elected spend on this issue,” he said. “Certainly it’s been a long journey … getting to this point, and I think this $20,000 reflects a more accurate representation of time spent on this issue.”

If the amendment passes on third reading, the licence fee would put Prince Albert at the high end of the retail business. Some cities, like Regina, have forgone a fee altogether, since retail licenses are included in the city’s tax policy. Others, like Moose Jaw, have linked the licence fee to how much annual revenue the business generates. In June, Saskatoon city council also voted for a $20,000 licence fee, which makes them the only community in line with Prince Albert.

Other licence fees around the province are set at $100 (Swift Current), $130 (North Battleford) and $750 (Lloydminster).

Heading into Monday’s meeting, city council was proposing a $30,000 licence fee, but that number was quickly changed once the debate got underway.

That’s small consolation for opponents of the decision, like Botha, who worried it was setting an unfair precedent.

“I really feel that we should treat the cannabis business licensee, of which there will be two, the same as any other business,” he said.

A $50,000 was briefly considered in an executive committee meeting. However, during a presentation to council, city administrators said they had accrued roughly $20,000 worth of time spread among multiple city departments such as community services, planning and development, and the planning and advisory committee.