March Update!

No doubt you have heard talk of speculation tax the NDP Government imposed in their recent budget.  Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich and the Gulf Islands says his constituency office has received more emails about this issue than any other, a sampling of them are available in his blog.

Says Olsen, “For a retired fixed-income couple or individual, assuming the fact they can pay (an) upfront tax, the unknown of whether they’d get money back at the end of the year when they file their income taxes is problematic.”

Indeed, Mr. Olsen’s comments are a reality for at least one client couple who have already been forced to list their Victoria condo, and a deep concern for another client who wrote the eloquent letter below. 

If you face the same choice or have concerns, join the 9,000 people have signed the petition to stop this tax.  You can also write your MLA, or the Hon. Carol James, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier.

The Hon. Carole James

Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier

MLA for Victoria – Beacon Hill

Dear Minister James:

I am writing to strongly oppose the real estate speculation tax, in particular how this will affect home owners in the affected areas who use their home as a personal residence, but also reside in another Canadian province and under the Income Tax Act must consider the latter as primary residence.

Although I am required to list Quebec as my primary residence because I earn a salary there, I have built a life in Victoria over a period of 20 years. Thirteen years ago, I purchased a new town home in Victoria, in your riding, as part of my long term plan to relocate. I now spend about 40% of my time in residence in my townhouse and I am working towards 49% (the maximum to keep Quebec health insurance benefits) before completing the move in 2021. I am here every month and for extended periods over the summer and Christmas period. My social network is here, including my partner, many friends and relatives. 

Applying this tax to people in my circumstances would impose undeserved and significant hardship. We are not the problem. We are not speculators; we are not leaving our homes empty; we are not laundering money; we are not hiding our money offshore. We are hard working, middle class Canadians who love the life that we are building here and who are contributing to the community and to the economy. 

As a Canadian, I do pay for BC services through:

Property tax:  I pay the full assessed amount, not being eligible for discounts for a primary residence or age.

Provincial sales tax and general contributions to the local economy: I purchased a home, complete furnishings, a new automobile, original artwork, kayaks, bicycles, etc., as well as paying the expenses of daily living locally.  I frequent local businesses and buy locally grown food.

Federal transfer payments and federal investments in BC: I pay considerable income tax to Revenue Canada, and thus indirectly contribute to BC. For example, federal transfers to BC were $6.680 billion in 2017-18  and are estimated at $6.925 billion in 2018-19

With this new real estate tax, I am being told that I must pay a hefty annual premium if I want to keep this life I have built and complete my plan.  What are my options?

Rent my townhouse: I am here every month. So, I would have to rent somewhere else and give up living in my beautiful home. Oh, then I would have to declare the rental income, meaning I would pay more anyway. If I would have to pay the tax upfront, even if renting, the tax rebate would come through filing BC provincial income tax. How would that work?

Sell my townhouse: I have put money and effort into making this a beautiful home. The idea of not living in it is heartbreaking – I have never intended to sell, but to make it my permanent home.  Thus, either I couldn’t come here or I would need to rent somewhere else to live, which would be a zero sum game in the number of available housing units.  Also, I would have to pay capital gains on this property and then more taxes to purchase another property should the time come to be a permanent resident – i.e., start over. This is a money losing proposition as well as personally distressing.

Quit my job and fully move to BC ahead of schedule: I am a research scientist working on treatments for ALS and employing several people in my laboratory. So, this option has consequences beyond me personally.

Just pay a premium of over $40,000 in tax: I would have to pay the BC government over $1000/month to keep what I lawfully own. This just seems unfair and exorbitant for my circumstances. It would also strongly curtail my disposable income to spend at local businesses.

None of these options is palatable. In fact, they look and feel like extortion.

I do understand the concern about affordable housing in popular places to live like Victoria (It’s a world-wide issue), but I urge you to think carefully if the plan you have proposed really addresses that problem. I, as well as many analysts, think not. Rather there would be a domino effect, with detrimental consequences to the economy. Aside from not serving many BC residents fairly, this tax would impose undeserved hardship on Canadians such as myself who have planned and worked hard to participate in this life, who spend our money in BC and who contribute to the community.


A Very Concerned Part-time Resident of Victoria