Penticton MP Dan Albas appeared before the regional district Corporate Services Committee to field board concerns of a federal nature on January 23.
The board discussed four topics with the federal member of parliament: medical marijuana, federal grant opportunities, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Additions to reserve, and Canada Post reductions in service.
Albas attempted to assauge the fears of the board over the prospect of medical marijuana facilities locating in the regional district.
He said the applications for medical marijuana licenses are extensive, containing a number of hoops for applicants to jump through.
“The program is designed to help a small number of people gain access to medical marijuana. There will always be an underground (market) element to it,” he said. Albas noted that a Supreme Court decision decreed that Canadian citizens have the right of access to medical marijuana, and the new program was an attempt to balance individual rights to access with those of public safety.
“Regulation of these facilities should not be foisted on municipalities,” Albas said, noting the present system cost eight million dollars a year to regulate.
Area “G” Director Angelique Wood asked what provisions were being made to ensure existing private grow ops were dismantled following the introduction of the new legislation on April 1.
“After April 1, the criminal code applies to private grow ops,” Albas replied, “Most who use it are (basically) seeking access – those who grow in non-compliance will be doing so at their own peril.”
Albas told the directors their inclusion in the decision making process regarding the location of medical grow facilities was through their jurisdiction’s zoning laws. He admitted the system may prove imperfect, but could be changed should the need arise.
Grant funding opportunities
Albas also discussed grant funding opportunities with the committee.
He told the board that gas tax funding had become a permanent funding means, indexed to inflation. He said that a new Building Canada Fund was being created with 53 billion dollars dedicated over 10 years to municipal infrastructure.
With teh addition of gas tax funding, there will be over 63 billion dollars worth of investment in infrastructure over the next 10 years.
Albas said budget details were closely guarded secrets and would be revealed with upcoming budget announcements.
AANDC Additions to reserve
Keremeos Director Manfred Bauer asked Albas about new additions to reserve policy. He cited such things as lack of control, the expectation of negotiation in good faith with no veto power, and possible financial and zoning issues stemming from the new additions to reserve policy as problems faced by municipalities.
“Are you planning on reacting to these concerns, or just listening to them?” he asked Albas.
Albas explained the policy of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) was to seek public opinion, and had done that with respect to changes to additions to reserves, noting the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) had both made submissions on the subject.
“If you have specific information, let me know,” Albas said.
Oliver Rural Director Allan Patton described a scenario where a developer or a native could buy a parcel of land, turn it over to an Indian band and bypass any existing land use regulation.
“Then of course, the regional district or the municipality loses the tax revenue from it, then there’s the issue of competition in there. It’s a big concern.”
Albas attempted to reassure Patton, stating that the AANDC had a number of land use policies and statutes that had to be adhered to that included the consideration of existing zoning, adding he had heard similar concerns from First Nations representatives as well.
Canada Post cuts
Albas stated that only 24 per cent of his riding constituents were affected by recent Canada Post service cuts that will see an end to door to door delivery of lettermail. He claimed to have heard little complaint about the changes.
Area “G” Director Angelique Wood suggested the value of a postmaster in a small community was more than simply that of a mail deliverer.
“Our postmaster in Hedley notices things like people not picking up their mail,” she said, adding the postmaster is one of the first to notice if one of the community’s elderly residents isn’t out and about as usual.
“She notifies neighbours, and asks them to check on their fellow residents,” she told Albas.
“It has resulted in people being found, fallen down, who couldn’t get up, and people who are hurt.
“I know we talk about the cost of the service, but our post offices are doing much, much more than just taking care of the mail.”
“This is an appeal – there’s more built in than we’re paying for than just a mail service.”