More than 100 people gathered in Trimble Park on Vancouver’s West Side on Tuesday evening to protest the NDP’s school tax.
The protest had initially been slated to descend on a town hall forum organized by Attorney General and Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby.
Eby scrapped the forum Tuesday morning over “safety” concerns, saying the event was for ticket-holding constituents of his riding but would be crashed by “angry” people from outside of Point Grey.
That claim was in response to a letter penned by BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson calling for people to go whether they had tickets or not, as well as a pair of ads taken out by real estate agencies, one calling on opponents to attend “regardless of whether or not the hall is full.”
Bearing printed signs reading “No unfair tax” and “Angry?” the protesters moved the event to the park where speakers slammed the measure as government overreach that would eat away at people’s home equity.
“If we continue on this tax grab, if we allow this to happen to our city, where does it end?” former Conservative MP and Vancouver mayoral candidate Wai Young.
“It’s not just happening to people with $3 million homes, it’s going to happen to all of the other ones as well. A tax grab is a tax grab.”
As written, the school tax only applies to homes with a value of $3 million or greater.
It applies a tax of 0.2 per cent on the value of homes worth between $3 million and $4 million, and a tax rate of 0.4 per cent on the portion of a home’s value that exceeds $4 million.
“I don’t think people who live in this neighbourhood should be punished because their house prices have gone up, they have done nothing to control the rise or fall of the price of housing within their neighbourhood,” said speaker Kirpy Sangara.
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Another attendee named Barb is a retired high school teacher who says she bought her house for $46,000 in 1973.
“And then bingo my house is worth $4 million, it has nothing to do with me. So why all of a sudden am I being taxed because people came in and decided this piece of property was worth that amount of money?”
The government projects the levy, one of several tax measures included in the NDP’s plan to cool the housing market, to raise more than $250 million over the next three years.
Under B.C.’s Tax Deferral Program, seniors and families with children under 18 may apply to put off paying the property taxes on a principal residence until the home is sold. Seniors are charged an interest rate of 0.7 per cent, while other owners pay 2.7 per cent.
LISTEN: David Eby cancels school tax town hall
In response to the protest, Eby said he respected people’s rights to voice their concerns, but that he wouldn’t be stopping by the park to listen.
“My priority is and remains my constituents and hearing from my constituents. And Mr. Wilkinson’s constituents and people from other communities, they have MLAs that should be attending to their needs,” Eby told CKNW’s Lynda Steele Show.
“What I am going to do is put together an event that is for my community members and the people I serve — even when it’s negative, even when it’s difficult I’ll set it up so they can provide that feedback to me.”
Eby could get that chance soon. The West Point Grey Residents Association has organized its own town hall meeting for May 27 at the Jericho Gym, and has invited the MLA to attend.
“We need to really continue the dialogue, not stop it,” said association member Jennifer Fahrni.
She says she’s most concerned for the elderly.
“People on old age pensions, the people that have been here for a long time. Some of these people have used their homes as their bank, and an assessment of someone’s home has nothing to do with the equity that people have or the ability to pay the tax.”