Ontario, Quebec slow on cannabis hires
Hundreds of bureaucrats are being recruited by regional governments across Canada to help regulate and administer the multibillion-dollar recreational cannabis market that is now barely four months away.
Everywhere, that is, except for the two jurisdictions expected to account for the majority of Canada’s legal marijuana sales.
With the sole exception of Nancy Kennedy – who was appointed president of the Ontario Cannabis Store in April – neither Ontario or Quebec have hired a single person to ensure their new cannabis markets will be running smoothly when 95 years of marijuana prohibition comes to an end on October 17th.
“[Ontario Cannabis Store] has been staffed to-date primarily using existing LCBO and government resources,” a spokesperson for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which plans to have 40 standalone OCS locations stocked and staffed by the end of 2018, told BNN Bloomberg via email. “It is too early to provide an update at this time on future hiring until Ontario’s Cabinet is sworn in [on June 29th].”
Quebec, meanwhile, is arguably even further behind.
“Unfortunately, the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) does not have a president nor a board,” Mathieu Gaudreault of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), told BNN Bloomberg via email. “It is impossible for us to give out projections about the administration or the management workforce.”
SDQC expects to name a president and a board of directors “in the next weeks,” Gaudreault said, “after that we will have a better idea of the administrative organization of the SDQC.”
Canada’s two largest provinces stand in stark contrast to the rest of the country. BNN Bloomberg reached out to every other province and both territories planning for retail sales – Nunavut is planning an online-only cannabis market – and without exception every single one of them said at least some hiring has been done.
Prince Edward Island – Canada’s smallest province in size and population – hired Zachary Currie to be P.E.I. Liquor’s new director of emerging markets and channel development in January. One industry expert, however, argues Ontario and Quebec are not as ill-prepared as their lack of recruitment to date would suggest.
“They haven’t been exclusively hiring in the way that other provinces have,” Deepak Anand, a vice-president of business development and government relations at Cannabis Compliance who has been consulting with provinces about how to handle legalization, told BNN Bloomberg in a telephone interview.
“It is true there aren’t people dedicated 100 per cent to [establishing a cannabis market framework], but it isn’t like they are operating in a vacuum here,” Anand said, noting both Ontario and Quebec have devoted substantial existing resources to the cannabis file.
Nonetheless, with CIBC recently predicting recreational cannabis sales will surpass $6 billion annually by 2020, with Ontario and Quebec likely to account for more than half of that figure, Anand acknowledges their lack of hiring “is a concern, clearly.”