British Columbia

B.C. condo marketer Bob Rennie accused of advance knowledge of foreign real estate buyer tax

NDP housing critic David Eby says an article in the Globe and Mail shows Bob Rennie knew a tax was coming on foreign buyers in B.C. But Rennie says that's not true, and says he was merely speculating about such a tax. Eby wants an investigation.

Rennie denies any concrete knowledge of 15% tax; says earlier comments were merely speculation

Vancouver real-estate marketer Bob Rennie is being accused by NDP housing critic David Eby of having insider information about B.C.'s new foreign buyer tax. But Rennie says he didn't, and "any speculation to the contrary is untrue." (CBC)

The B.C. NDP is accusing the province's top condo marketer, Bob Rennie, of getting advance notice on a new 15-per cent tax on foreign homebuyers — but Rennie is adamantly denying the allegation.

In a letter to Premier Christy Clark, Eby said it was "easy to speculate" why the government would do such a thing: Rennie is the chair of the B.C. Liberals' fundraising committee but also the so-called "Condo King" and an influential real estate marketer.

"This information is highly valuable," Eby said on Tuesday. "He's almost uniquely positioned to profit from the information, [which] raises a whole lot of questions: who told Mr. Rennie, did he use the information, did he act on it, did he tell anyone else?"

NDP Housing Critic David Eby says going ahead with the report on key factors affecting home prices is a waste of time and money. (CBC)

"If this had been stocks, and Mr. Rennie had received this information, someone would be reviewing his stock transactions to make sure he didn't profit."

Eby said he wants a full investigation to be conducted, but Rennie said the accusations are baseless.

"I did not have or was given any advance knowledge on the foreign buyer tax," Rennie said in a statement. "Any speculation to the contrary is untrue."

Rennie denies accusations

Eby based his accusations on a Globe and Mail article written by journalist Mike Hager, in which Rennie seems to say, in a paraphrased quote, he had a three-week heads up on the new tax.

Hager told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn that Rennie's exact words, as recorded by his colleague and article co-writer Frances Bula, were:

"Three weeks ago, I knew there was going to be a tax on foreign ownership. I didn't know it would be 15 per cent, I thought it would be five to eight percent. All the polling showed people were frantic and wanted a tax on foreign ownership."

Hager said after the article was published and Eby called a press conference demanding an investigation about what Rennie knew, Rennie called him up and said he was using the word "knew" in a figurative sense — and was instead merely speculating.

Bula could not be reached for comment. Hager said he stands by her work.

Premier Christy Clark said very few people knew about the tax and those who did were sworn to secrecy.

The Ministry of Finance, in a statement, said the tax was developed "with all appropriate confidentiality measures in place."

"The Ministry of Finance provided no advance information regarding this measure to anyone except those officials within government who were directly involved in the development and implementation of the legislation and tax measure," the statement read.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast