Emotions ran high at a rally opposing the NDP government’s controversial school tax on homes valued over $3 million on Sunday.
The event took place ahead of a town hall with Vancouver-Point Grey MLA and Attorney General David Eby organized by the West Point Grey Residents Association.
LISTEN: David Eby responds to town hall grilling
Demonstrators say the NDP’s school tax, which applies a 0.2 per cent levy on the portion of a home’s value over $3 million, and a 0.4 per cent levy on the portion over $4 million, is an unfair grab at unrealized capital gains.
“I just think the tax is unfair, and I’m not prepared to pay tax on money I don’t have,” one demonstrator told Global News.
“Properties have gone up in value through no fault of our own and we’re being victimized for it,” said another.
A third said the tax had pushed their property tax far beyond their ability to pay.
“Our tax has gone from around $1,500 to $18,000 last year. This year, the tax is going to go up to $32,000.”
Supporters of the tax, some bearing signs with messages such as, “Pity me, my $5,000,000 house is all I have,” also turned up at the demonstration, at points engaging in heated arguments with protesters.
About 500 people turned out to the ensuing town hall, and most of them had no bones about their opposition to the tax.
It was the first time Eby faced his constituents in a public forum since cancelling another town hall this month over “security concerns” after realtors took out newspaper ads encouraging the public to attend the event.
“I hope that Mr. Eby in particular pays attention to his constituents, because we are saying loud and clear that this is not okay,” one speaker told Global News.
One of the few attendees who said they supported the new tax measure was former Vision Vancouver school board chair Patti Bacchus.
“I thought that was a pretty fair way to raise some revenue and perhaps even maybe cool the market a little bit and make life a little less unpleasant for people who are on the losing end of this property situation,” Bacchus said.
Despite the grilling, Eby stood his ground, indicating no willingness on the government’s part to budge when it comes to the school tax.
“The tax is part of government’s fiscal plan, and government is investing in things like schools and healthcare and other initiatives to make life better for British Columbians, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
But Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson, who has vocally led opposition to the initiative, insists the government missed the mark.
“We do need the revenue to supply these services, but at the same time, it’s got to be fair, and it’s got to be equal and people have got to buy into it,” he said.
It’s likely not the end of the tongue-lashing Eby will get from angry homeowners. He’s set to hold another town hall with constituents next month.