Langford’s mayor says he will continue to fight the speculation tax, even after claiming he was threatened by an economist working for the province over it.
Stew Young said it’s no secret he is opposed to the tax. He said many jobs in Langford rely on the building industry and that since the speculation tax has been brought up, the city has seen a slow down in investments and projects.
After receiving several letters from concerned community members about the speculation tax last year, Young said he went to the province to discuss exempting Langford from the it. He said he had a meeting with Rob Gillezeau, a University of Victoria economist working for the province.
“I went down there and I said, ‘I’m concerned about jobs’,” Young said. “I said, ‘I’ve got a whole bunch of letters that I’m getting from people…and they’re leaving Langford…I have to respond to all of these people and put it on the council agenda’.”
Young said he told Gillezeau if the province was going to exempt Langford from the tax, he wouldn’t address the letters in the council meeting. That is when Young said he was threatened.
“He starts rolling his pen, leans back in his chair and says to me, ‘if you go public with this, go against the government, against this speculation tax, you will never get out of the speculation tax’,” Young said.
After the exchange, Young said he told Gillezeau that they would agree to disagree and left.
Blake MacKenzie, an owner of EMR Vacation Rentals Inc. and vice president of NorthWest Vacation Rental Professionals, said he was at the meeting with Young and Gillezeau and was able to confirm Young’s accounts. MacKenzie said Gillezeau’s comments were a “direct threat.”
The Goldstream News Gazette reached out to the Premier’s Office and in an e-mail response, a spokesperson said the Office “looked into the matter raised by the mayor and are confident that all government staff conducted themselves professionally.”
“There was not an exchange like the one the mayor described,” the e-mail reads. “Langford was always included in the Speculation Tax region because it experiences serious housing challenges and very low vacancy rates.”
Despite Young’s opposition to the tax and backlash from community members, the tax is still going to affect Langford.
Homeowners will be able to apply to opt out of the tax and will be receiving instructions in the mail from the province on how to do so.
According to the province, the speculation tax is supposed to target foreign and domestic speculators who own residences in B.C. but don’t pay taxes in the province.