British Columbia

'It's a tax on savings, period': Hundreds pack Kelowna forum on provincial speculation tax

The majority of the 300-person crowd at the town hall, hosted by the B.C. Liberals, was against the tax.

Majority of 300-person crowd at B.C. Liberal-hosted town hall was against the proposed levy

Around 300 people attended a forum in Kelowna about the province's proposed speculation tax and what the levy would mean for the area. The majority were opposed to the idea. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

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.

Kelowna's population has jumped by more than eight per cent since 2011, according to census data. Its city council has said it wants no part in the province's proposed speculation tax, which would charge people who own a vacant second home in some B.C. cities. (City of Kelowna/ Facebook)

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.

B.C. Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson spoke at the town hall. He said the speculation tax would be “a tax on savings, plain and simple.” (Brady Strachan/CBC)

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.

Around 300 people attended a forum in Kelowna about the province's proposed speculation tax and what the levy would mean for the area. The majority were opposed to the idea. (Chris Walker/CBC)

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.

Metro Vancouver, West Kelowna and the Nanaimo Regional District would also be among the areas affected by the levy. The latter two have already announced their opposition to the tax.


  • 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