West Kelowna’s mayor and chief administrative officer made their case against the province’s new speculation tax directly to B.C. Finance Minister Carole James Wednesday.
Mayor Doug Findlater and city CAO Jim Zaffino met with James and ministry staff in Victoria to discuss West Kelowna’s concerns about the controversial tax.
According to the city, the half-hour meeting allowed Findlater and Zaffino to elaborate on concerns West Kelowna council and many residents and homeowners in the city have about the proposed tax.
“We knew we weren’t going to receive a definitive answer during this meeting to our request to be excluded from this tax, and they said they are receiving a lot of input from other mayors that they will take into consideration,” said Findlater. “They will announce what their plan is sometime in the spring, with the legislation expected in the fall.”
Findlater said James appreciated the prepared information presented by him and Zaffino.
“We made the case that we would be uniquely hurt in the pocketbook by it,” said the mayor. “We are a sizable, 10-year-old city that inherited a huge infrastructure deficit with almost no reserves. This tax would set our infrastructure program back significantly with the loss of taxes through growth and Development Cost Charges.”
Announced in February, the speculation tax is intended to target vacant or seasonally vacant homes in certain areas of B.C. While directly aimed at out out-of-province owners of property in the city, it could also affect B.C. owners of property in West Kelowna whose principal residence is elsewhere in the province. The government has said a special tax credit will be introduced to protect B.C. owners affected.
The tax has proved particularly controversial here because of what both West Kelowna and Kelowna officials say are the “unintended consequences” on their respective economies, as well as on local industries, including construction and tourism.
The tax only affects West Kelowna, Kelowna, Metro Vancouver communities, the towns and cities in the Fraser Valley and the Capital and Nanaimo Regional Districts on Vancouver Island.
Kelowna’s mayor is also seeking a meeting with James, as well as Premier John Horgan and Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson to protest the tax.
For the meeting with James, West Kelowna prepared a booklet outlining the negative impacts to the city that are expected if the tax is implemented and provided it to finance ministry staff.
On March 13, West Kelowna council directed that city representatives meet with Horgan and B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver requesting the Speculation Tax not include West Kelowna.
To date West Kelowna has been unsuccessful in securing meetings with the premier or Weaver and on Wednesday, when asked about the opposition from Kelowna and West Kelowna by the media, Horgan said he would leave the matter to James to deal with.
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