With longer and harsher winters compared to the rest of B.C., the City of Fort St. John says the carbon tax on home heating bills is an unfair financial burden to its residents.
“We have winter longer than anyone, it costs our residents more than it costs anyone else,” explained councillor Trevor Bolin, recommending that the city send a letter directly from the office of Mayor Lilia Hansen to Premier David Eby requesting an exemption from the tax.
City council agreed to send the letter at their November 14 meeting, where a need was also raised to be exempted from the province’s new rental act, as temporary housing is crucial for housing transient oil and gas workers, and medical visits from nearby communities.
The new legislation was put in place to help municipalities regulate short-term rentals managed through companies like Airbnb, which many provincial and municipal leaders have said is driving up the price of long-term housing.
However, Bolin says the situation in Fort St. John is different, and that without short-term rental solutions like Airbnb, the city would struggle to house workers coming to the area for employment in the energy sector.
“We do have people who come here for a short time, to ensure that there is safety for those workers on oil patch sites, we do have hotels that are full for non-stop time-frames,” said Bolin, noting that during the wildfire season, the city struggled to find hotel rooms for evacuees.
Neighbouring communities like Fort Nelson in the Northern Rockies also come for medical services at the city’s regional hospital and need places to stay, added Bolin.
“We can’t expect for these people to have one less option to stay in,” he said. “Right now we are excluded, however, they are using old data for that exclusion. Come this spring they will probably realize we shouldn’t be excluded, so I think it’s our time right now to request from the province a permanent exclusion for the City of Fort St. John.”
The old data uses a vacancy rate that is above 3.5 percent, which enables eligibility for the current exemption.
Council voted in favour of sending a second letter to the province, also to be penned and signed by Mayor Hansen, outlining their need to be exempted from the new short-term rental legislation.