West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater expressed his concern about the potential impact on his city of the province’s new speculation tax directly to Finance Minister Carole James last week. —Image: contributed

West Kelowna not giving up its fight against speculation tax

Despite finance minister saying she won’t exclude the city, council wants West Kelowna out

West Kelowna plans to keep lobbying the province to be excluded from the new speculation tax, despite Finance Minister Carole James saying that won’t happen.

Following a meeting between West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater and James last week, the government made some tweaks to the tax earlier this week in order to ease its impact on British Columbians who own second homes in the province.

At his meeting with James, Findlater presented a number of proposals including not applying the tax in West Kelowna. But that was not accepted by James.

West Kelowna and Kelowna are the only two municipalities in the B.C. Interior where the tax will be applicable. It also affects Metro Vancouver, Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Mission, the Capital Regional district in and around Victoria and Nanaimo and Lantzville on Vancouver Island.

While aimed at out-of-province property owners and intended to lower the cost of homes and make more available in the affected communities, both West Kelowna and Kelowna says the “unintended” consequences of the new tax will be to slow development, reduce property values, impact tourism revenues and result in job losses and a slowdown of the economies in both cities.

In its February budget, the government announced the tax, which both West Kelowna and Kelowna feel is actually a vacant home tax, not a tax that will stop property speculation. The was no consultation prior to the tax’s introduction. Both Central Okanagan cities—and the Union of B.C. Municipalities—want to see a true property “flipping” tax instead.

Findlater argues West Kelowna is unique given it is only 10-years-old and does not have reserves built up to fund important infrastructure upgrades, projects that currently rely heavily on development cost charges—revenue raised from development to pay for public infrastructure.

He says the tax will create an uneven playing field with neighbouring communities that are not impacted by the tax. In the Okanagan, they include Lake Country, Peachland, Penticton and Vernon.

On Tuesday, West Kelowna council requested Findlater write to Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James to reiterate West Kelowna’s desire to be excluded from the tax and request a face-to-face meeting with Horgan.

Council also said if the province maintains the tax as planned, it wants Victoria to provide an economic impact report before the tax is implemented.

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