A Lower Mainland law firm has submitted a second class petition to the Supreme Court of B.C. seeking a temporary injunction from the speculation and vacancy tax (SVT).
The new petition, from Lawrence Wong and Associates in Vancouver, features nine more clients in addition to the five parties included on the initial petition filed Sept. 26. Of the nine clients of which six are parties from Greater Victoria.
One of the parties is Hugh Bacon, who with his wife Heather, have a condo in Sidney.
They claim they’re caught in the giant net that is the SVT as they also spend much of the year at their other place, a seasonal residence next to a ski hill in Ontario.
“We have rented the [Sidney condo] in the past to help pay the bills,” Bacon said. “And other times we’d stay there four to six months of the year.”
They were surprised with the retroactive application of the SVT because had they known, they could have rented it out. But it was impossible to retroactively rent the house out in 2018, saying they didn’t know until November.
“We’re trapped, like many others,” Bacon said. “At the time, my wife was still undergoing cancer treatment in Ontario. And as you know, you can’t go back and forth.”
Another client in the case is Claire Carlin, who supports the SVT but says she is unfairly caught by its blanket ruling. Carlin’s husband lives in Bellingham. They married 27 years ago but continued to live and work in their respective cities, each other for small increments each month.
“We have an unconventional marriage, he is domiciled in Bellingham, he worked there, and I worked in Victoria,” said Carlin, who lives in James Bay near Beacon Hill.
Despite retirement little has changed and they visit each other about once a week per month. He still has a business there, as well as his children and grandchildren. Carlin volunteers with the Francophone Historical Association of Victoria, leads a federally funded research project in association with University of Victoria on digitizing archives, and volunteers at Abkhazi Garden.
“My [condo] is not vacant. I live in it all year round. When I first called the province, I was told by someone at the province that my situation is collateral damage.”
Making matters worse, Carlin is designated as a satellite owner, because her partner is in the U.S. That bumps her to a two per cent tax bracket.
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“It’s an extreme source of anxiety and stress that I might lose my home. If I rented my house, I could avoid the tax, but I would have to find somewhere to live. Or I could divorce my husband.
“The tax bill is so large I can’t afford to pay it. I’m not divorcing him because the province asked me to.”
The petition seeks an injunction based on the claim that the SVT is unconstitutional and infringes Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, life, liberty and the security of the person.
“We are seeking to turn this into a class proceeding,” said Lawrence Wong. “But that comes later. For the time being, we are seeking an interim injunction to suspend the provisions of this tax, so that they don’t have to sell their homes, or remortgage. We want relief for all the proposed class members.”