Sidney is wondering why towns like Parksville and Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island received an exemption from B.C.’s proposed new speculation tax and they did not.
So, Sidney is going to ask the Premier and provincial finance minster why not.
In a unanimous vote Monday night, Sidney council voted to ask not only for an exemption of their own, but also ask the B.C. NDP to reconsider the tax outright. The tax was introduced as a measure to help get vacant homes into the rental market and to stem speculation on properties, driving prices up.
Councillor Tim Chad raised the subject, noting that local business owners are worried about a drop off in their winter business, as out-of-province property owners face paying the new tax or selling their vacation homes.
“I believe this is an unfair tax,” Chad said, adding he thinks the tax treats the province as a separate country within Canada and treats Canadians different than in other provinces.
The B.C. NDP government proposed the tax, which would start later this year at 0.5 per cent of the value of a home this fall for B.C. residents. For other Canadians, the tax rises to two per cent in 2019. Foreign property owners would pay the full two per cent tax starting in February, 2019. The tax would hit everyone who owns property — but doesn’t pay provincial income tax — in the lower mainland, Capital Regional District (including Sidney), Nanaimo Regional District, Kelowna and West Kelowna.
Exemptions announced by B.C. Finance Minster Carole James this week include the Gulf Islands, Parksville and Qualicum Beach and the Juan de Fuca region.
Coun. Peter Wainwright suggested taking the issue further with the province.
“Even if they exclude Sidney from the tax,” he said, there are Sidney residents who own vacation properties elsewhere, whose jurisdiction may not be excluded.
Wainwright said he wants the province to reconsider the tax and its unintended consequences.
“We’re hearing stories of people trying to dump their properties so they don’t get caught up in the tax,” he said.
Coun. Erin Bremner-Mitchell reminded council that the intent of the speculation tax does support Sidney’s own goal of trying to add more homes to the local market and driving prices down. She said Sidney’s goal is to reach a population density of 15,000 by 2025.
She said, while she agrees with Wainwright’s call for a review of the tax, it’s proposed implementation means those units Sidney is seeing built here are not filling the gap that the Town has intended them for.
Wainwright added he feels the tax is too heavy-handed and should not come into effect until next year. And even then, he would like to see the tax applied only to new home sales — essentially grandfathering in existing properties against having to pay a new tax.