About 100 people came out Wednesday night in West Kelowna to hear more about the fight against the speculation tax proposed by the provincial government.
Organizers wanted “to create awareness around the issue of the speculation tax and really help people understand that the impact is about to be felt and it’s going to be a big impact,” Kevin Edgecombe, Okanagan Urban Development Institute chapter chairperson, said.
Edgecombe said the local economy will be hit hard if the tax is introduced.
“The people who do come here and support our economy are going to not come,” Edgecombe said. “They’re not going to be buying boats. They’re not going to be playing golf. They’re not going to be doing what they typically would do in a normal Okanagan summer and that’s going to have a big impact on the Okanagan as a whole, on the province as a whole.”
Kelowna West Liberal MLA Ben Stewart was part of the discussion Wednesday evening and said construction workers have begun to feel the impact of numerous cancelled housing projects.
“I think that generally what we’re finding is that the tax has now stopped development,” Stewart said. “It’s costing jobs in the community.”
“Now we’re starting to hear from the grassroots: the blue collar builders, the people that are plumbers, electrician, drywallers … who are finding that because of the projects drying up, now they’re starting to impact their ability to find work right here in West Kelowna and Kelowna.”
Stewart said he has received more than 900 emails and letters from area residents who are against the tax.
Edgecombe said most people don’t realize the speculation tax is an annual tax and believes it is wrongfully being imposed on Kelowna and West Kelowna, Metro Vancouver, the Capital Region, Nanaimo, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission are the other communities where the tax would be levied annually.
“It’s an unfair justification. There doesn’t seem to be an appropriate justification for bringing in Kelowna and West Kelowna,” Edgecombe said. “We are at tourist destination location. We rely heavily on tourism and it’s important that we get that message to Victoria.”
The NDP proposed the speculation tax as a measure that could cool the housing market and help free up affordable housing for British Columbians. The government’s proposal can be found here.