Central Okanagan MLAs (left to right) Norm Letnick, Steve Thomson and Ben Stewart will hold a panel discussion on the province’s new Speculation Tax and Employer Health Tax March 25 in Kelowna. —Image: Facebook

Central Okanagan MLAs plan public meeting on new B.C. taxes

Speculation Tax and Employer Health Tax will be the subject of panel discussion in Kelowna March 25

The Central Okanagan’s three MLAs are planning a public panel discussion on the NDP government’s new Speculation Tax and Employer Health Tax next week.

Liberal MLAs Norm Letnick (Kelowna-Lake Country), Ben Stewart (Kelowna-West) and Steve Thomson (Kelowna-Mission) have announced they will hold the public meeting March 25 at the Parkinson Recreation Centre.

While the names of local experts who will sit on the panel were not immediately released, a Facebook entry advertising the panel discussion said new Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson will attend.

The Speculation Tax has raised a great deal of concern by local government, business and individuals in both Kelowna and West Kelowna since it was announced in the recent B.C. budget. The mayors of both cities have said they want to talk directly to Premier John Horgan about what they feel are unintended adverse consequences on the economies of their respective cities by the new tax.

The government’s plan will increase the taxes on homes owned by out-of-province owners substantially this year, and by even more in 2019. As a result, many owners say they are already planning to sell their properties here— and won’t be back.

Only Kelowna and West Kelowna are subject to the tax in the B.C. Interior. It is also applicable in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the Victoria and Nanaimo areas.

A recent report by West Kelowna city staff said the Speculation Tax could have a devastating impact on development in that city, as well as hurt the tourism sector, cost jobs and reduce revenue generated from growth, which is used to help pay for civic infrastructure. That, in turn, could result in higher tax increases for all property owners in future.

It also said many British Columbians with second homes could be affected because they may not earn enough to be able to claim the credit the government says it will offer to offset the tax impact on B.C. residents.

A similar report is expected to be delivered to Kelowna council next week.

The Employer Health tax, being implemented to partially cover the cost of eliminating provincial Medical Services Plan premiums for individual British Columbians, is also a growing concern for many businesses. It will apply to any company with a payroll of $500,000.

Large organizations, like the Central Okanagan School District and Interior Health, estimate it will add millions of dollars to their annual costs.

The MLAs’ panel discussion, to be hosted by Letnick, is scheduled to run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and is seeking public input.

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