OpEd: A speculation tax in name only

An oxymoron is a combination of contradictory words. Their use is in the English language is long and storied. Examples include giant shrimp, working vacation and job security. Not to be outdone, B.C.’s NDP government is adding to the legacy of double-speak with a combination of words that, in no way, delivers on its promise: speculation tax.

The speculation tax will not impact speculators who quickly flip property for profit at all. Instead, average British Columbian and Canadian homeowners who have worked hard to afford cottages, homes and city apartments will bear the brunt of the NDP’s tax-and-spend attack.

The NDP didn’t model the tax, and initially stated that it targeted foreigners and out-of-province residents. But the B.C. government has since acknowledged that two-thirds of homeowners impacted will be British Columbians. Most are not rich – many are average Canadians with children, mortgages, commutes and 40-hour work weeks. Others stretched their finances to purchase retirement properties. Some keep a secondary home in metropolitan areas due to lack of services in their home communities.

The remaining one-third affected by the tax are out-of-province Canadian residents. The impact on non-Canadian and off-shore residents? Limited, at best.

The tax threatens to drive away British Columbians and Canadians from communities that they have called their own for decades. These people support B.C.’s education, infrastructure and provincial services through their generosity, purchases and, yes, taxes.

The provincial government’s clumsy implementation of the tax has led to piecemeal exemptions based on favouritism and political expediency. The finance minister has already flip-flopped on initial plans for the tax, exempting Parksville, Qualicum Beach, many Gulf Islands, and the Juan de Fuca area. All are in NDP-Green ridings. Kelowna and West Kelowna vocally opposed the tax, predicting it will damage the local economy and cost jobs. They remain taxed.

Unfortunately, their fears of economic stagnation have proved prescient. Goat’s Peak, the largest housing project ever in West Kelowna, is stopped dead due to the job-killing tax. So much for NDP promises that the tax will increase housing supply.

Instead of the more affordable B.C. the NDP promised, British Columbians are facing new tax after tax. School taxes, payroll taxes and now the ‘speculation’ tax – $5.5 billion in tax hikes over three years. The speculation tax is just another example of the B.C. government’s isolationist policies that undermine confidence and drive a wedge between British Columbians and the rest of Canada.

We recognize that housing affordability is a serious issue in B.C. We support smart policy that will actually improve the situation by, for instance, increasing the supply of affordable housing, enforcing money laundering laws, and putting capable people in housing, law enforcement and relevant regulatory bodies. We do not support taxing British Columbians and Canadians who have had no hand in growing the housing bubble, and may not have the income to cover new and regressive taxes.

The speculation tax has long-term and far-reaching implications for B.C. communities, local economies, and B.C.’s relationship with other provinces. That is why we’ve launched Canadians Against the B.C. Speculation Tax – a coalition urging the B.C. government to rethink and discard this misguided tax before it does irreparable harm. We’re raising awareness around the proposed tax and its consequences, and providing a platform for Canadians to express their concerns to the B.C. government.

However, we cannot hope to do this alone. Please join us, and let the B.C. government know that you do not support this tax or the damage it is already doing to jobs, the economy and the supply of housing.

Blake MacKenzie operates a B.C.-based small business and Ryan Callioux purchased a home for retirement in B.C. They are founders of Canadians Against the B.C. Speculation Tax.

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