Local politicians and developers expressed relief and appreciation Monday afternoon after the B.C. government announced that Parksville and Qualicum Beach would be exempted from the NDP’s proposed speculation tax on properties owned by non-B.C. taxpayers.
“I can’t tell you what a relief that is,” Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre told The NEWS. “I was terribly concerned about the impact it was going to have on the tourism industry, on the construction industry, on the real estate industry and overall business in Parksville in general.”
B.C.’s speculation tax on vacant homes is being restricted to urban areas, with vacation homes valued at under $400,000 in rural areas exempted, Finance Minister Carole James said Monday, March 26.
The Gulf Islands, the Juan de Fuca region in Premier John Horgan’s constituency, Parksville and Qualicum Beach are being exempted, James said.
“That’s really good news,” Regional District of Nanaimo board chair Bill Veenhof said. “It’s outstanding news; I’m a little disappointed that the City of Nanaimo is still in.”
James said she has heard many calls for change or repeal of the tax she announced in February, but it is needed in large urban areas to give people incentive to rent out vacant homes. Those that are rented monthly for six months a year will also be exempted.
The change is designed to exempt “cottages and cabins on the lake,” James told reporters in a conference call from Vancouver.
“I want to thank the provincial government for listening,” said Lefebvre. “I believe we made our case; the city wrote a letter to the government and I’ve been continuing to send emails.
“Those people coming from Alberta and Manitoba and Saskatchewan and other provinces are not speculators. They’ve had homes here a long time and they spend money here, supporting local businesses and contribute to the community. They’re valued as residents of Parksville.”
Veenhof agreed with Lefebvre that the efforts of local residents and civic leaders paid off with the speculation tax reversal.
“This is a clear indication that the provincial government listened to what the community was saying, to what I was saying, to what other directors were saying,” Veenhof said.
The RDN board of directors voted March 13 to request the province scrap the speculation tax. At that meeting, Lefebvre cited the example of a $30 million expansion project at Parksville’s Sunrise Ridge Waterfront Resort that had been put on hold after a number of pre-sale customers backed out due to uncertainty over the speculation tax.
Monday’s annoucement by James may lead to restoration of the project, said Randy Trapp, president of Luxury Resorts West Development Corp.
“The only thing holding us back was the announcement of this (speculation) tax and the instant negative impact it had on our presales,” he said. “I’m optimistic that we can recover those pre-sales and begin construction as scheduled later this summer.
“I think it was prudent of the government to take into consideration the feedback they received.”
Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek told The NEWS Tuesday that he understood the need to help curb speculation in area, but he didn’t like the idea of taxing specific areas.
“When you do a taxation it should apply across the province. I didn’t understand why areas regional districts to the south or the west or the north were not included.”
As originally announced in the B.C. budget Feb. 20, the speculation tax would be charged to out-of-province residents who inherited a family summer or ski cabin, if it is in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Nanaimo or Capital Regional District, or the municipalities of Kelowna and West Kelowna.
Nanaimo-Lantzville is still within the range of municipalities subject to the speculation tax, thought the RDN’s outlying electoral areas in District 69 are included in the exemption.
Check www.pqbnews for updates and more info.
— With files from Lauren Collins and Tom Fletcher