June 11, 2018 1:59 pm
Updated: June 11, 2018 8:07 pm

UPDATED: B.C. premier meets with Okanagan mayors about speculation tax

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Premier John Horgan met with Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater about concerns over the speculation tax on Monday.

The meeting was just under an hour. Both mayors said they feel their concerns were heard.

“I think it went quite well in that he was certainly listening and receptive to some of the points we put forward,” said Basran. “But at the end of the day, we will have to wait and see whether they take those ideas and implement them into what could potentially be any changes.”

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Basran added “we are certainly optimistic, but, at the end of the day, we will have to wait and see. He did come here and was listening very intently and was here to hear our ideas. So we will see now if those get implemented or not. I know I plan to take the same message to the finance minister next week when I meet with her, so we will just have to wait and see.”

“I think he heard us out. He conceded some points,” said Findlater. “We heard what he had to say in terms of how this was a campaign promise of theirs, although he conceded it was a campaign promise on the speculation tax applied to the Lower Mainland, not here.

“He heard our concerns by applying that tax in West Kelowna, in particular, it uniquely affects us as a new city, a young city that we don’t have the reserves to build infrastructure. We are building a tax base; we are collecting revenue from development that helps us upgrade infrastructure, and he conceded that was a point. It was congenial. I think we gave him some things to think about.”

Findlater added that “the door may still be open on this rather than totally closed.”

READ MORE: It’s goal is to make rental housing easier to access but some say the speculation tax may have the opposite effect in already tight markets like Kelowna

Horgan said he’s heard concerns but whether any tweaks will be made to the controversial tax remains to be seen.

“They aired their views,” Horgan said of Basran and Findlater. “They hold them very strongly and I listened intently. I did remind them we did a campaign (promise) on a speculation tax. I reminded them the status quo has not been effective on creating more housing for people who live not just here in Kelowna and the area, but right across the province. And something had to be done, and the changes we have brought forth will be effective to dampen demand and bring on more supply.”

Horgan added that “both municipalities made very strong arguments this morning and they can speak for themselves, but I have a high degree of respect for both Doug and Colin. They represent their communities. They believe that they are putting their communities’ best interest forward, and I have to respond to that by saying I have a broader responsibility to the entire province.

“We have a housing crisis in British Columbia and the vacancy rates here are ridiculously low and people are finding it difficult to find a place to live, yet we have vacant homes, homes that are not occupied for the majority of the year that could be available to help people out.”

They met at the Four Points Hotel next to the airport.

“I think the premier is certainly understanding of the concerns that we raised,” said Basran. “About whether or not he’s compelled enough by what he heard to make any changes remains to be seen.”

“We will just have to wait and see,” added Findlater. “We gave them something to think about.”

Those living outside of Canada and not paying taxes here will pay two per cent on the assessed value of their home starting in 2019 if the property remains empty. Canadians that do not live in British Columbia will pay a tax of one per cent starting next year. British Columbians that own multiple homes and keep them empty will pay 0.5 per cent tax.

The tax will apply to Metro Vancouver, the Capital Regional District (excluding the Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca), Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo-Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission.

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