Wednesday, May 9, 2018

West Kelowna mayor blasts premier over speculation tax



West Kelowna’s mayor is going public with his frustration with B.C. Premier John Horgan over the province’s new speculation tax.

In a Facebook post over the weekend, Doug Findlater blasted Horgan for first agreeing to a meeting and then not responding to any attempts to set a date for that meeting.

“No response to what was agreed to as having a meeting on the SPEC (sic) tax,” wrote Findlater. “No reply to my email, and others who have requested a meeting with the Premier have not had a reply. Bad form at best.”

On Monday, Findlater said Horgan agreed to the face-to-face early last month after he and other politicians in municipalities affected by the controversial new tax crashed an NDP meet-and-greet session in Penticton prior to Horgan’s appearance at a south Okanagan winery.

“We are continuing to fight and oppose this as hard as we can,” said Findlater, who met with Finance Minister Carole James in March to discuss the impact of the tax on West Kelowna. That meeting, however, did not produce what West Kelowna wants—an exemption from the tax.

Introduced in February’s B.C. budget, the tax will slap a 0.5 per cent levy this year on properties owned by B.C. and non-B.C. residents, properties that are not their primary residences. While it would remain at 0.5 per cent for B.C. residents in 2019, for out-of-province Canadians, it will jump to one per cent in 2019 and two per cent for non-Canadian owners of B.C. property. The government has said a refundable tax credit will be available to B.C. residents to help offset the tax.

The tax would be applicable in West Kelowna, Kelowna, Metro Vancouver, the Capital Regional District (excluding the Gulf Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca), Nanaimo-Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission.

Findlater said he wants West Kelowna excluded and argues the tax is already having an impact on a number of fronts in his city, including the housing market, construction, development, tourism, the hospitality industry and city infrastructure.

The city argues the new tax is scaring off new development and costing West Kelowna revenue from new construction and development cost charges, which West Kelowna uses to pay for some infrastructure.

The city has estimated if the new provincial speculation tax has the impact predicted, it could mean future annual residential property tax increases could jump into the five per cent range from the current two per cent range.

Meanwhile, Findlater said it appears West Kelowna is not the only municipality being snubbed by Horgan when it comes to a meeting over the speculation tax. He said he recently spoke to Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and was told Horgan has also not responded to his request for a meeting either. Basran and City of Kelowna staff has voiced similar concerns about the impact of the tax Kelowna’s economy.

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