Candidates for political office in Kelowna were surveyed on their impressions of the planned speculation tax. Bob Schewe is clear on what he likes and doesn’t like. He doesn’t like the tax-grabbing NDP government. He approves of property speculation – it’s “their business,” he says of the speculators, implying it’s none of ours. And he has no problem with the idea of the City of Kelowna attempting to obstruct the provincial government on this issue.
Colin Basran’s carefully worded survey response mentions housing affordability and homelessness, but somehow fails to mention the elephant in the room: housing availability. A low rate of availability is obviously related to homelessness, and a low rate of availability is exactly what’s led to the speculation tax, which taxes the owners of vacant homes, encouraging them to put them on the rental market.
In his survey response, Basran called for a full economic analysis of the speculation tax and for using “good data before pushing through policy.” It begs the question: what data did he use in order to conclude that “already, vital sectors of Kelowna’s economy – particularly construction and tourism – are suffering” from the planned but not-yet-implemented tax? It’s not a moot question. How can you measure the results of something that does not yet exist?
The renters of Kelowna need better answers than any so far given. Unfortunately, Bobby Kennedy’s tirade breaks no new ground. As an opponent of the speculation tax, he says “this initiative put forward by the NDP government is an example of how government often disregards what is truly best for the citizens and our province in order to carry out political agendas that benefit their party first, and foremost, regardless of the cost to the people.”
Kennedy clearly hasn’t done his homework. An attachment to the City of Kelowna’s March 19 report on the speculation tax repeated the findings of an Insights West poll showing that 75 per cent of those who voted for the BC Liberals in 2017 were in favour of the tax, while 79 per cent of those who voted Green and 90 per cent of those who voted NDP were also in favour. 85 per cent of renters and 82 per cent of homeowners were in favour of the speculation tax. In other words, the tax meets the political agenda of most British Columbians, regardless of who they vote for or whether they rent or own.
Loyal Wooldridge’s response is unique in how it points out that the city “isn’t actually responsible for providing housing.” Strictly speaking, he’s right. No one expects the city to take money out of the policing or public infrastructure budgets, for example, in order to build affordable housing. That said, Wooldridge might want to look at pages 34-39 of ‘A Home for Everyone,’ which describe how local governments have created regional growth strategies, official community plans, and neighbourhood level plans that incorporate concrete affordable housing strategies by using the large array of tools available to them.
His response also stands out for how it asks us to feel “sad” about how the speculation tax targets vacancy and assets, causing rich investors with multiple homes to cash out of the market because they refuse to consider paying tax on their empty homes. It’s not likely that the renters of Kelowna or the vast majority of British Columbians would experience crocodile tears over the probable effectiveness of the proposed tax.
Brad Sieben’s response stands out for how it considers Andrew Weaver an ally in the battle to axe the tax: “advocating to sympathetic MLAs (including Green Party leader Andrew Weaver) with vigour must be continued. Good progress was made at (recent) UBCM and some hope was provided in the commentary from Weaver.” True, Weaver does not think British Columbians and other Canadians who “happen to have a second place” should be taxed. He huffs and puffs about how the tax is “a vacancy tax — it is not a speculation tax,” but he doesn’t mind taxing vacancy as long as local governments craft the legislation and the revenues go toward non-market housing.