'Thanks, but no thanks': Kelowna to fight speculation tax

Kelowna city council voted Tuesday to draft a letter to the B.C. government officially announcing its opposition to the proposed speculation tax.

Council 'fundamentally opposed' to proposed tax, votes to draft letter to NDP addressing concerns

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says the tax could have 'dire unintended consequences' for the Okanagan city which relies on tourism and outside investment. (City of Kelowna/ Facebook)

After weeks of rumblings, Kelowna city council has made it official: it wants no part in the province's proposed speculation tax.

Council agreed Tuesday night to draft a letter to the provincial government saying the city is "fundamentally opposed to the implementation of a vacancy-based speculation tax as proposed in budget 2018."

"Thanks, but no thanks," said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran during a council meeting this week.

The heavily criticized tax was announced by the government to address rapidly rising house prices. It would only be applied to certain B.C. communities, including West Kelowna and Kelowna.

West Kelowna and the Regional District of Nanaimo have already announced their opposition to the tax.

'Fundamentally wrong'

Basran has previously said he believes the tax could have "dire unintended consequences" for the Okanagan city which relies on tourism and out-of-province investment, a point he reiterated during the council meeting.

"In my estimation, the speculation tax as proposed has so many damaging impacts," said Basran.

"We've had homes for locals and we've had outside investment in our communities for decades ... I still believe we can have both."

City officials are now seeking a meeting with the premier, the minister of finance and the minister of municipal affairs and housing to discuss the community's concerns.

West Kelowna has also announced its opposition to the tax asking that the Okanagan community be exempt. (City of West Kelowna)

Councillor Brad Sieben says he believes the tax is "fundamentally wrong."

"I really take offence to the fact that Kelowna is identified in this without any consultation whatsoever with us as a municipality," said Sieben. 

"I fundamentally don't support the tax at all. It shouldn't be there ... full stop. It's unfair."

Staff say tax is 'misapplied'

City manager Ron Mattiussi says he thinks the province's motivation to address the housing crisis was genuine, but he believes the tax is "not the right solution."

"Our position is you're trying to solve a problem, we get that, but we think it's misapplied. There may be better ways to solve that problem," Mattiussi told CBC Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"Hopefully that message will resonate with the province."

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater had a meeting scheduled with Finance Minister Carole James Wednesday in hopes of earning his city an exemption from the tax.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South and Chris Walker.

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.