British Columbia

Andrew Weaver says school tax has 'unintended consequences'

Andrew Weaver says the B.C. government's controversial school tax proposal — which would increase the tax bill of homes worth more than $3 million — has unintended consequences that should be addressed.

Proposed tax has left some homeowners of million-dollar homes fuming

'We don't want to turn Point Grey and West Vancouver exclusively into homes for the rich,' says B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver about the NDP's school tax. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says the B.C. government's controversial school tax proposal — which would increase the tax bill of homes worth more than $3 million — has unintended consequences that should be addressed.

In an interview with host Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition, Weaver said while the principles of the tax are in line with B.C. Green policies of tackling real estate issues in the province, he said the Greens would do things differently.

To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below:

What exactly is your position on the surtax on properties worth more than $3 million?

When we entered an agreement with the B.C. NDP, we signed a confidence agreement that would give them confidence in budgetary measures, but at the same time allow us to vote freely on matters on all bills brought to us.

The school tax addition was part of the budget.

We recognized that it was part of a confidence vote, so we supported it and we did not think we should go to an election.

Over the last few months, what we've tried to do is get the B.C. NDP to recognize the unintended consequences associated with that.

So you don't you support the tax in its current form?

No, but the tax has passed, and it doesn't come into play until next year.

I'll give a specific example. And really, the tax is largely relevant to West Vancouver and Point Grey.

What we're concerned about is a family that's grown up there their entire life. The parents have deeded the house to the children for example. The children may not be 55 years old, and may not actually have the ability to defer taxes. [B.C. allows a resident aged 55 or older to defer paying all or part of their property taxes on a principal residence.]

Point Grey residents rallied against the B.C. government's proposed school tax increase at Trimble Park on Tuesday. (CBC)

What's happening then, through no fault of their own, they're suddenly going to get a massive raise in their tax where they live and where they grow up.

We don't want to turn Point Grey and West Vancouver exclusively into homes for the rich. There will be no community left there.

How many people are in that situation you've described? That sounds like an exception rather than the rule. What we're asking here is to get someone who owns a $3 million house to pay an extra $1,000 per year.

The problem with the property tax is it's a paper wealth tax. You only actually realize the wealth when you sell the property, otherwise you're paying the tax on something that's hypothetically being assessed by the B.C. Assessment Authority.

What would the Green party be doing differently right now if you were in power?

In our platform, we had a graduated scale of property transfer tax which would put downward pressure on the upper end of the market.

That tax would only be realized upon sale … it still doesn't stop people who are wealthy from paying, but it ensures by putting pressure there after sale, you're not actually dragging the bottom end up with you.

There's been a lot of talk about the risk David Eby is facing in his riding of Vancouver-Point Grey as a result of this tax.

If all we ever do when we're elected is basically take a populist approach, you end up not dealing with the problems that exist.

I think David Eby is an honourable gentleman and I think he can look himself in the mirror and say, "I did what is right and if the people don't like it, so be it."

You're not elected to please everybody.

This interview aired on May 4 and has been edited for clarity and structure. 

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