Both West Kelowna and now the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) have asked the B.C. government not to impose the new speculation tax in their regions, with the latter saying that “in its current form, [the tax] should be eliminated.”
First West Kelowna’s mayor Doug Findlater announced that councillors had voted unanimously to ask the province for an exemption from the 2 per cent annual tax on empty investment or vacation properties, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce wrote to finance minister Carole James to make the same request. The RDN board then followed suit with a press statement this week.
The statement cites board director Bill Veenhof as saying, “The RDN strongly and fully supports the provincial government's goal of improving housing affordability… The RDN is concerned that the Speculation Tax is not the most appropriate approach to addressing this issue and could actually work against our continued efforts to develop more affordable housing.”
In response to the imposition of the tax on owners of recreational properties in the region, he added, “These people are not speculators. They are important members of our communities. Families who visit year after year, supporting local businesses, paying their fair share of property taxes, and investing in our tourism-based economy. They are part of our community mosaic, they volunteer, they are our friends and many go on to retire here.”
The RDN said that by applying the tax within its borders but not to neighbouring areas such as the Cowichan, Comox and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Districts, it would put the Nanaimo area at a competitive disadvantage.
The statement concluded, “The RDN has requested a meeting with the [finance] Minister to have a fulsome discussion about how this tax will affect housing affordability on Vancouver Island and in British Columbia and looks forward to collaboratively working with the Province to find solutions…. As it stands, the solutions do not include the proposed Speculation Tax…. The RDN Board of Directors unanimously agreed to object to the Speculation Tax in any form, in any region or municipality in B.C. According to Director Veenhof, ‘The unintended consequences of this tax far outweigh the benefits and in its current form, it should be eliminated altogether.’”
The districts’ objections to the tax follow a huge outcry among owners of B.C. vacation and investment properties, both from inside and outside the province. A petition called “Stop BC Speculation Tax” has been gaining steam and as of March 16 had more than 11,100 signatures.
An Insights West survey carried out after the B.C. Budget found that four in five British Columbians were in favour of the planned new real estate tax measures, including the annual speculation tax and the expanded foreign buyer tax.