British Columbia

David Eby's school tax town hall finally happens, but not without fireworks

B.C.'s attorney general was finally able to hold a forum in his home riding to take questions about what appears to be a unpopular tax on homes valued at more than $3 million.

Protest precedes meeting, hundreds attend to criticize plan to tax homes valued at more than $3m

Protesters hold signs and listen to speeches in the Point Grey neighbourhood of Vancouver before a town hall about a new school-tax increase on May 27, 2018. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

B.C.'s attorney general was finally able to hold a forum in his home riding to take questions about what is proving to be unpopular tax on homes valued at more than $3 million, at least for those who have to pay it.

"It's another way of trying to drive us out of our houses," said Point Grey resident Bruce Anderson on Sunday at a rally outside of the Jericho Hill Centre. "It's completely unfair."

Point Grey homeowner Bruce Anderson says the school tax increase should be scrapped. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The increased school tax, announced as part of the NDP's 2018 budget, would affect properties valued at more than $3 million.

Starting in 2019, the tax is an additional 0.2 per cent on the value a home valued at more than $3 million, or 0.4 per cent for a home valued at more than $4 million.

'Ability to pay'

"My home has increased in value, but my ability to pay hasn't gone up, my salary hasn't gone up. I still have a big mortgage on the place," said local home owner Ed Kaczor at the rally.

"I don't see this as any different than looking into our RRSP portfolios and saying, 'oh and that investment did really well so maybe I could tax that one.'"

Eby says the increase would generate around $200 million in funding for the education system, particularly for seismic upgrades.

He had originally planned to have a town hall in his riding about the tax on May 1, but postponed it due to security concerns.

On Sunday at the rally preceding the forum, there was a scuffle between attendees as one person, supportive of the tax, was drowned out by those against and had his signs ripped away.

B.C. school-tax sign scuffle

5 years ago
Duration 0:30
A rally about a new school-tax increase in B.C. gets heated in Vancouver after one pro-tax resident showed up.

Wolfgang Tolkein, the Point Grey homeowner at the centre of the disruption, shrugged off the confrontations afterwards.

"I'm actually ashamed of people who complain about this miniscule surtax," he said. "I am absolutely prepared to pay that. I think that's fair."

Point Grey homeowner Wolfgang Tolkein is in favour of the increased school tax, which he says works out to the price of a cup of coffee per day. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Hundreds attended the forum, but rose out of their chairs to clap or cheer when points were made deriding the tax.

Hundreds of Vancouver homeowners gathered in the city's Point Grey neighbourhood to vent their frustrations to over an increased school tax. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson spoke at the town hall and took aim at Eby while criticizing the tax as cash grab attacking the B.C. family home.

"You're not a protester or an agitator anymore, you've got to act like a minister of the crown and listen to the people you represent," he said.

Other politicians also spoke along with academics including UBC's Tom Davidoff, who has been supportive of the tax.

David Eby listens to speakers at a town hall in his Vancouver riding on Sunday May 27, 2018. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

For his part, Eby, tried to calmly listen to all the comments and explain, as he has all along, the reasons for the tax.

"There is a housing crisis that we're dealing with," he said. "The property values here, many of the people affected, their values have gone up 400 per cent in the last 10 years.

"And the proposed tax at its highest level is .4 per cent, so it's a fraction of a fraction of the appreciation and value of these homes."

The province says it is aware that some homeowners are on fixed incomes, particularly seniors. It advises them to apply to defer the tax until they sell their property.

With files from Jon Hernandez