Vancouver school tax protesters turn their anger on UBC housing prof, who’s teaching ‘hate’

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A UBC professor who's been outspoken on a school tax for expensive homes is the target of angry homeowners who don't like what he's saying. Nadia Stewart has the story – May 3, 2018

UBC is standing up for one of its professors against calls from owners of expensive homes to silence him because they don’t like what he’s saying.

The professor is Thomas Davidoff, who’s been outspoken in the debate over taxation and density in Vancouver.

Angry over the proposed school tax, Vancouver homeowners staged a rally in Trimble Park on Tuesday — one that was originally scheduled before a town hall meeting being held by area MLA and  Attorney General David Eby. That meeting was cancelled over safety concerns.

WATCH: David Eby cancels town hall meeting

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David Eby cancels town hall meeting – May 1, 2018

However, protesters didn’t just set their sights on Eby: they also called for UBC to take action against Davidoff, an associate professor at the Sauder School of Business.

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“I suspect that every donor to UBC in any significant amount lives in a home [worth] over $3 million,” area resident Matt Wood told protesters on Tuesday.

“We need to send them a message that we can’t have professors like Davidoff teaching his ideology of entitlement and hate.”

That feeling was echoed in emails about Davidoff that were sent to UBC’s president.

Davidoff has long been vocal about housing policy in B.C.

LISTEN: UBC professor under attack over school tax debate

Years ago, he and dozens of academics proposed the B.C. Housing Affordability Fund, targeting owners of vacant homes with a 1.5 per cent property surcharge and then giving the revenues to Canadian tax filers.

In one email, Shaughnessy resident Andrew Webb said, “How this American socialist transplant is crafting predatory tax policies for the government, and robbing homeowners of unrealized gains, is beyond me and beyond words.”

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Davidoff responds to critics

Davidoff said the criticism doesn’t intimidate him.

“When I had my Canadian citizenship ceremony, I was told that I not only had the right, but the obligation to try to make my community better,” he told Global News.

“I might spur argument —and I think that’s great. Let’s have the argument, tell me where I’m wrong, but hopefully I bring some creative ideas and I’ve been very happy that governments have been receptive to what I’ve had to say.”

UBC supports Davidoff completely.

In a letter obtained by Global News, the school’s provost cited the university’s commitment to academic freedom, saying “calls to interfere with the communication of scholarly opinions amount to a request to violate university policy. Respectfully, we cannot accede to such requests.”

Variety of opinions needed, advocate says

Housing advocate Justin Fung said the idea of silencing the voices of academics in the conversation about housing is disconcerting.

“I don’t always agree with Tom, to be honest. But I’m happy that he’s out there,” he said.

READ MORE: Protesters gather in Vancouver to bash ‘predatory’ school tax on $3M homes

Fung has debated Davidoff on Twitter and he said the discourse has always been healthy. He said silencing voices like Davidoff’s will do more harm than good.

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“I think it makes for a better society, I think it makes for more informed decision making and in the absence of that, we lose a lot,” he said.

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