B.C. municipalities ask for power to opt out of speculation tax, finance minister says no

Carole James says polls show 80 per cent of British Columbians approve incoming speculation tax.

Carole James says polls show 80 per cent of British Columbians approve incoming speculation tax

Kelowna mayor Colin Basran speaks to reporters at the UBCM. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

A resolution asking that municipalities be given the power to opt in or out of the speculation tax  has passed with near unanimous approval at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler. 

"This resolution proposes local government make the decision on their own whether or not to impose a vacancy tax," said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen who introduced the motion.

"The choice should be made locally. They know the circumstances they live in."

The speculation tax was introduced in February's provincial budget as a way to curb speculation in the housing market. However, it has been criticized as being too broad in its application. 

Tax to go ahead, says minister

A number of municipalities expressed concerned it would affect people who had owned seasonal or vacation properties for years. 

The NDP government later made a number of changes, saying the tax would no longer apply to properties in the Gulf Islands, Parksville, Qualicum Beach or rural Fraser Valley. 

"My concerns with the speculation tax are about the potential unintended consequences, and that it won't actually address speculation," said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. 

Finance minister Carole James said she's listening but that the speculation tax. which would range from 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent, will go ahead.

"There's a housing crisis in British Columbia," James said. "We need to address that crisis and the public wants us to address that crisis."

James says polls indicate there is over 80 per cent public support for the tax.

With files from Justin McElroy