'It's a tax on savings, period': Hundreds pack Kelowna forum on provincial speculation tax
Majority of 300-person crowd at B.C. Liberal-hosted town hall was against the proposed levy
Several hundred people packed into a community centre in Kelowna on Sunday for a town hall on the B.C. government's proposed speculation tax.
The B.C. Liberal Party hosted the forum, which heard from a panel of tax consultants, a developer and poverty reduction workers.
The levy was proposed by the provincial government as a way to tackle rapidly rising house prices.
It would charge those who own a vacant second home in some areas, including Kelowna, two per cent of their property value, starting next year.
Kelowna, which relies on tourism and out-of-town investment, was quick to push back against the proposal.
Earlier this month, Mayor Colin Basran said he believes the tax could have "dire unintended consequences" for the city.
"In my estimation, the speculation tax as proposed has so many damaging impacts," he said.
"We've had homes for locals and we've had outside investment in our communities for decades ... I still believe we can have both."
In Kelowna on Sunday, B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson encouraged the crowd to be loud with their opposition to the tax by phoning their MLAs and campaigning on social media.
He described the tax idea as "a half-baked, misplaced, goofy plan."
"It's a complete misnaming of the tax. It's an asset tax, folks. It's a tax on savings, period," he said.
Developer Renne Wasylyk said the extra fee would dry up development and hurt the local economy.
"We are talking about a significant amount of people that will be left without work," she said.
"We are looking at a speculation tax that was really attempting to address affordability. If people don't have jobs, no matter how affordable that rental is, they can't afford to live in B.C."
The majority of the 300-person crowd was against the tax, but there were a few in favour.
Christine Mettler with the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition suggested that the forum was one-sided, ignoring housing problems in Kelowna.
"We haven't addressed the fact that housing [prices have] tripled in the last 15 years," she said to boos from the crowd.
- A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to developer Renne Wasylyk. In fact, the statement about having homes for locals as well as having outside investment was made by Mayor Colin Basran.Mar 26, 2018 11:05 AM PT
With files from Brady Strachan