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Weed, casino touted for Parksville
Could gambling and marijuana solve Parksville's financial woes?
Mayor Chris Burger has suggested exploring new money-making options, including medical marijuana and a casino.
"I know this could bring a strong response," Burger told The NEWS after the Monday council meeting where he proposed the ideas for the Oct. 21 town-hall-style council meeting at the McMillian Arts Centre.
"We're always raising taxes. Of course I'd prefer to never raise taxes but as mayor I'm also chief executive officer looking at the budget and I'm thinking, how do we generate revenue?"
He said there has been a lot of talk about revenue versus expenses, increasing taxes or reducing services and alternative funding.
"With this narrative that's been under way I haven't heard any actual ideas coming forward of things the municipality could do to generate revenue, so I have a couple suggestions," he said.
Chuckles started in the audience.
The medical marijuana suggestion comes from the recent federal government decision to open the industry up from a single government-run facility to private industry.
"I seriously think there's very few times you have a new industry emerging like that over night and if you can get in on the ground floor you might be in a good position," Burger said.
He said he's already had one enquiry about building a growing facility in the city and he's spoken to Health Canada about the possibilities.
He said he hopes the city will look into both the zoning and land use perspective, and "there's no reason we couldn't be involved directly as a municipality."
He pointed out the city has 20 acres in the industrial park which the new water treatment facility will use "a tiny portion of" and will already require a high level of security.
"There's a lot of research to this, much more than meets the eye. It's more like a pharmaceutical industry — there's opportunities to grow strains for specific ailments," he said, adding there may be some good synergies with existing city operations.
The medical marijuana proposal, like the casino, was suggested as a trial balloon that would require senior-government decisions. Burger is introducing them just to solicit community feedback.
"There are already casinos in Campbell River, Courtenay, Nanaimo, Cowichan, Port Alberni and View Royal," Burger said, adding they earn their municipalities "$4.1 million to a low in Port Alberni of $426,000 direct revenue into the municipality and they create a lot of jobs."
He recognized "there is obviously a down side to this as well," but said casinos are also often connected to other amenities like restaurants and theatres.
"There is so much gambling going on already," Burger said of lottery tickets, sports betting and online gaming. "There's a tremendous amount already being spent on gambling in this area and all the money goes directly to Victoria."
He said a lot of community groups and projects depend on B.C. Lotto grants, but that all comes through the province, with no local control.
"Parksville is one of the few communities on the Island without a casino and yet we're one of the major resort destinations."
"This is not a decision council can make on it's own, ultimately it's a provincial decision," he said, explaining this preliminary step is just to see what the community thinks of the possibilities before they embark on lengthy processes.
The city is looking for feedback on the proposals as well as any other revenue generating ideas at the next council meeting at The MAC, 133 McMillan Street at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21.