Discriminating tax

I am not surprised at the steady stream of letters you have received denouncing the heavy-handed and un-Canadian “speculation” tax that the NDP is planning to impose. Add me to the list of folks who thinks not only that this is a mean-spirited move, but also a ploy that will have negative consequences for the Okanagan economy, which means that it will affect all of us.

I admit it, while I am now a full-time resident of West Kelowna, at one point I lived in Calgary and paid my provincial taxes to the Alberta government. Fifteen years ago, my wife and I had a dream to acquire a summer home somewhere in Canada that would become our retirement home. While Calgary is a great city, it is seldom promoted as an ideal retirement destination. As good Canadians, we never once gave any thought to potential restrictions on our free movement from one province to another. So we acquired our current West Kelowna home, gleefully spending our three summer months in the Okanagan. But for much of the year the house would remain vacant.

We dutifully paid our property tax, while burdening the municipal and provincial systems much less than most full-time residents, my children went to school in Alberta so there was no incremental impact on overcrowded BC schools, and our general use of services and facilities was a fraction of those who lived year round in BC. Kelowna meant vacation time, and we came with our wallets open. Sales tax collectors, golf courses, retailers, bars and restaurants all benefited from our time in BC. As planned, when the retirement opportunity came around last year, we sold our principal residence in Calgary and became card carrying BC citizens.

Does this sound like a speculative strategy to you? Was the purchase of our Okanagan home and our retirement transition a negative for the BC economy? Hardly. This was a lifestyle decision with positive ramifications for BC.  I have read that the imposition of this tax won’t matter to out-of-province buyers from Alberta because they are all rich oil people. Well, I am not a rich oil person, and most Albertans are not rich oil people. My proof? They elected a majority NDP government.

We would never have bought our Kelowna home 15 years ago if this speculation tax had existed. Initially I had planned to retire 20 years after our home purchase, and so with an extra 2% per year of tax (assuming no further escalation in the tax rate over time), that would have effectively added about 40% to the initial purchase price, no thanks. We would have found a more welcoming environment elsewhere and that destination would have been rewarded for their open-arms attitude with incremental tax revenues, a housing market which would support the construction trades, and the host of multiplier effects associated with our spending activities.

I am hopeful that BC residents (like myself) now recognize that this tax will not just hurt out-of-province Canadians, the pronounced negative impact on the Okanagan economy should have all BC citizens voicing their disapproval to Mr. Horgan.

Tim Simard

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