West Kelowna  

Blindsided by tax

West Kelowna council is fuming over the potential effect a new speculation tax could have on development in the city.

The tax, introduced as part of the NDP budget, is expected to be introduced in the fall. It would apply to West Kelowna and Kelowna as well as the Lower Mainland and portions of Vancouver Island.

The new annual property tax will target foreign and domestic homeowners who do not pay income tax in B.C, including those who leave homes vacant. So-called satellite families, or households with high foreign incomes that pay little provincial income tax, will also have to pay the tax.

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said the new tax may cost the city by "slowing down good development."

"It's not just Kelowna and West Kelowna. The fastest growing community is Lake Country," said Findlater.

"This is going to distort the local housing market for people to develop in some of the other municipalities in the area. Some of the people doing these development are going to be going to Vernon and Penticton."

West Kelowna CEO Jim Zaffino agreed Lake Country would likely see increased growth as a result.

Coun. Carol Zanon suggested looking into Section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees Canadians mobility rights.

The harshest comments came from Coun. Rick deJong who said the city, like the public, was blindsided.

He called it heavy-handed and a critical issue.

"How the provincial government can do something that impacts us so greatly without even having the courtesy to have discussion with us is beyond me. It's just disgusting," said deJong.

"Let's get our report done, formulate a game plan and have it go back to the province and see what we can do to get this addressed.

"Well done Carole James."

A report on the implications of the tax will be brought forward to the next council meeting March 13.

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