B.C. Liberals candidate Tony Harris, B.C. NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson and B.C. Green Party candidate Michele Ney. (JOHN LEHMANN photo and photos submitted)

Nanaimo candidate asks opponents to align with him against speculation tax

BC Liberal Tony Harris focuses on controversial tax as a wedge issue in crucial byelection

A day after Nanaimo byelection candidates debated the speculation tax, one of the candidates asked the others to join him in opposing the tax collection methods.

Tony Harris drafted a letter Tuesday and asked NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson and Green Party candidate Michele Ney to support his request to Premier John Horgan to reconsider the “negative-option billing” approach to collecting the speculation and vacancy tax.

“The government’s chosen approach to collecting payments is poorly conceived and poses serious risks to homeowners in Nanaimo and other affected regions,” Harris wrote in a letter he shared on social media.

The B.C. government has sent forms to 1.6 million British Columbians asking that they self-exempt themselves if the tax doesn’t apply to them.

Harris, at the Forum for Millennial Leadership debate the night before at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, said he felt the government should have used assessment data to take a more targeted approach to speculation tax collection.

He said he “categorically” objects to the speculation and vacancy tax, adding that “it’s a regressive tax and then the implementation was botched … More importantly, it doesn’t properly address the solution of supply when we have this pressure of population growth.”

Sheila Malcolmson, NDP candidate, said the B.C. speculation tax is modelled after one that “is working” in Vancouver.

“It’s a tool that’s worked in other places. It is something that 99 per cent of British Columbians will not pay…” Malcolmson said. “What we’re trying to do is make it affordable, make it possible for people to live here.”

She said the Liberals and Green Party didn’t protest speculation tax collection methods in the legislature, and said if the system doesn’t work, she would “advocate for a better way to do the paperwork” should she be elected MLA.

She suggested housing affordability became an “emergency” under the watch of the B.C. Liberals; Harris replied that “what you won’t get from me is a bunch of laying blame onto what caused what, but what we haven’t seen is our local MLA working aggressively with our local civic politicians to solve the supply issue through zoning solutions and that’s really where I believe the answers lie.”

Ney said the Greens were not supportive of how the NDP rolled out the tax. She said the speculation tax is “somewhat palatable” but not a policy the Green Party would have ever created.

“What I would like to see, as well as the Greens, is to pass this policy on to the municipalities so that they can distribute the levies, decide what exemptions are needed that are specific to the needs of their community, and allow them to be collecting the revenue from this tax and invest it in housing to address the issues and needs of that community,” she said.

During the discussion, moderator Richard Zussman asked Harris about removing a line from his bio on his company website that stated he enjoys real estate speculation.

Harris said after developing his Legasea project at Departure Bay, which he said has no foreign buyers or speculators, he doesn’t own another home or properties he’s looking to develop.

“I’ve always enjoyed speculating about how real estate will evolve in our community,” Harris said. “Nanaimo’s a dynamic town, it’s not your typical grid situation with ALR that you’re just going to expand into … So I had written something on my website a number of years ago that said I enjoy speculating about real estate. Now it’s a really dirty word. I thought it was insensitive to have it on the website; I removed it. At the end of the day, I’m not a speculator.”

RELATED: Nanaimo byelection candidates outline their priorities

RELATED: Nanaimo candidate, premier address spec tax at B.C. NDP event

OPINION: Poorly implemented speculation tax could have been a political win for NDP



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Organizers seek input for long-awaited Oaklands community garden

Oswald Park Community Garden Design Workshop coming up on Jan. 19

Six months to Francophone Games, 600 volunteers needed

Online applications open on Jan. 14

Tech consortium invests $25 million into four University of Victoria research projects

Investments come with goal of developing, implement technologies created by Canadians

Mass-timber project in Esquimalt switches from condos to rentals

Corvette Landing will now offer rental units in the area

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

Most Read