Bill Veenhof, Regional District of Nanaimo chair, discusses the controversial speculation tax at the board’s committee of the whole meeting, March 13. — Michael Briones photo

RDN wants speculation tax called off

Board chair seeks meeting with Ministry of Finance

The Regional District of Nanaimo board wants the provincial government to completely scrap the controversial speculation tax.

In its committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, March 13, the board was united in opposing the NDP government’s new speculation tax, which aims to target speculators who don’t pay B.C. taxes, including those who leave their homes sitting vacant.

Bill Veenhof, RDN chair, asked why the regional district, along with Parksville and Qualicum Beach, was being targeted.

In his presentation at the board’s committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Veenhof said if the province wants to impose this tax, it should be applied to everyone in the province.

“If the goal is to raise tax money, why not tax the whole province?” said Veenhof. “Why is the RDN being singled out when places like Whistler and Tofino have a much higher ownership level of properties from away and a greater need for affordable housing?”

Veenhof said he has made eight different attempts to correspond or arrange a meeting with Carol James, Minister of Finance, to no avail. He said he understands the province’s goal is to create a tax revenue source to fund affordable housing and to create more market rental/ownership opportunities. But Veenhof concluded it is not going to work and stated that it will have an adverse effect on the region’s economy, will stall development and reduce the value of houses in the region.

“There has been no consultation or pre-consultation, nor consultation thereafter,” said Veenhof. “When the province decided in its legislation to include the RDN in its speculation tax, it has assumed there was a need for affordable housing in the RDN. That’s the only way it makes sense. I don’t know why we were included and why others are not included. Again, no consultation.”

Veenhof said the regional district has already been creating affordable housing and is “proud’ of it.

The board, he pointed out, should be very concerned that the Comox Valley and Port Alberni are not going to be affected, which would create a competitive disadvantage for the RDN. It will, he warned, have a signifcant adverse affect on development in the RDN as it will push investment out to the other areas.

“It’s really bad for us,” said Veenhoff. “And this is not hypothetical.”

Parksville director and mayor Marc Lefebvre confirmed that the new speculation tax is already impacting developers and future home owners. He said he received a call from the developer of Sunrise Ridge Waterfront Resort and was told on the phone that they are not proceeding with a planned $30 million expansion project.

“The developer told me, ‘I am pulling out because the pre-sales have all gone backwards,’” said Lefebvre. “A lot of the pre-sales from Alberta, they all backed out because they said they’re worried about the speculation taxes. ‘We’re not going. We’re not doing anything anymore.’”

Lefebvre said since municipal governments are still working to sort this issue out with the province, the city offered the developer an extension on the development permit and building permit.

“He has agreed to that and we’re working on that,” said Lefebvre.

Major development relies on investments from far away, said Veenhof, who added that if that investment dries up, so will development. It would also lessen their ability to motivate creation of affordable housing. He recommended the board ask the Ministry of Finance to either remove the RDN from the speculation tax or apply it across the province. He also asked the board that it arrange a meeting with the minister, along with the region’s mayors.

Parksville director Kirk Oates said the speculation tax was not very well thought out from the beginning, and suggested the board ask the NDP government to eliminate it completely as the “consequences far outweigh any potential benefit from the tax.”

Qualicum Beach director and mayor Teunis Westbroek agreed with Oates and made a motion calling for the province to terminate the speculation tax.

The board unanimously voted in favour of the motion. A letter will be forwarded to the Ministry of Finance. The recommendation will also be submitted as an emergency motion to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communites and to the Union of BC Municipalities.

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