Parksville pushes back on speculation tax

Council warns tax could depress economic activity

Concerned over the potential negative economic impact of the B.C. government’s speculation tax on the City of Parksville, council approved a pair of motions to lobby for exemptions for Canadian residents for certain properties that would be hit by the tax.

“Since the budget announcement, members of council have received numerous concerns from Canadians who own property in the city and may now be subject to this additional tax,” said Coun. Sue Powell, who introduced the motions during council’s meeting March 5. “The city has many properties which are owned by non-B.C. residents, sometimes as the intended full-time home for Canadians who will be retiring here, some are family homes which have been inherited by children of full-time residents, and others that are not intended for full-time residence but that are zoned as vacation/rental properties in the resort area.”

Powell’s first motion asked that Mayor Marc Lefebvre write to Premier John Horgan and to the ministers of finance and of tourism, arts and culture to outline council’s concern regarding the implications of the tax on communities with large numbers of vacation/rental properties or properties being held for retirement purposes. Copies of the letter would be forwarded to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for circulation to UBCM members, asking them to also write the premier and the ministries in support of council’s concerns.

The second motion directed staff to draft an emergency resolution to the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC) conference to raise awareness of the impact of the speculation tax on Vancouver Island municipalities.

It would ask AVICC to write to the premier and the ministers requesting exemptions from the speculation tax for those who have purchased vacation homes, shared-ownership properties or retirement homes in B.C., and “if that’s not possible, to exempt Canadians from other provinces from paying this tax,” Powell said.

The speculation tax was introduced in last month’s 2018 budget, ostensibly as a way to rein in real estate speculation and control skyrocketing housing prices. It will add $5 per $1,000 in assessed property value for 2018 and jump to $20 per $1,000 in 2019, Powell said.

The speculation tax is not being rolled out province-wide, but will apply on the Lower Mainland, the Capital Regional District covering the greater Victoria area, and in the Regional District of Nanaimo.

“I’m not convinced this tax would help the housing situation in our particular area,” Coun. Kirk Oates said. “I think it would be a money-generating thing… but more importantly would have a numbing effect on development in our area.

“It’s curious the RDN was one of the areas captured and yet Comox was not; Cowichan was not. It’s sort of like we’ve been singled out, and I’m not sure why.”

Lefebvre said he heard from one tourism developer in the area who was considering whether or not to expand its development projects as a result of the speculation tax.

“And it’s big dollars,” Lefebvre said. “It’s extremely serious; it’s pretty obvious we have to get more information.”

Powell ran for the Parksville-Qualicum seat in the legislature for the NDP in last spring’s provincial election, a seat won by Michelle Stilwell in a re-election. Stilwell is the only Liberal Party MLA from Vancouver Island.

“I support the B.C. budget,” Powell said. “But I think this speculation tax had some unintended consequences. We’ve got property owners who are going to live in B.C., they’re just not ready to do that now.”

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