Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors discuss the possible ramifications if the province decided to expand its proposed speculation tax on property owners in the Shuswap. (Darren Robinson photo)

Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors discuss the possible ramifications if the province decided to expand its proposed speculation tax on property owners in the Shuswap. (Darren Robinson photo)

Fears that speculation tax, if imposed, could kill Shuswap tourism

Regional district directors wrestle with concern of seasonal residents leaving the area

It may not be applied here – but Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors say they are already feeling the effects of the province’s proposed speculation tax on second homes.

Area C South Shuswap director Paul Demenok asked directors at the Sept. 20 CSRD board meeting to discuss the possible repercussions such a tax would have and write a letter to Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James expressing concerns.

He agreed many delegates to the recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual conference in Whistler did not seem concerned by the proposed tax, which is, so far, limited to second properties in Metro Vancouver, the Capital Regional District, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo-Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission.

“I think they have their blinders on; it will have significant consequences in Area C,” said Demenok, noting South Shuswap has a high number of seasonal residents, many of them who own secondary homes. “The spectre of that is already apparent; some Alberta people are leaving already.”

Demenok made a motion to send a letter to Victoria, which was seconded by Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz, who said the impact would be huge in CSRD communities.

Related: Rural cabins, cottages exempted from speculation tax

Reminding the board she had brought up the issue several months ago, Area A rural Golden director Karen Cathcart said she and Darcy Mooney, CSRD manager of operations management, tried to approach residents about a fire protection service at Kicking Horse Resort, with little success.

“Darcy and I were deluged with comments about the speculation tax,” she said, urging the board to take immediate action. “And we did already write a letter.”

Cathcart says there are 14 resort municipalities in the province and the government is looking at adding more.

“If they’re gonna put a tax out, they need to be really clear about who and how it affects and have consultation with local governments,” she says. “Our small rural communities will be affected in a dire way.”

Salmon Arm Couns. Kevin Flynn and Chad Eliason said board members should wait until they hear what the province intends to do.

“I am extremely concerned about the speculation tax and its unintended consequences and ineffectiveness in solving the issue of housing access and affordability,” Flynn says, deeming it an ill-advised asset tax with the potential of having a negative effect on tourism. “But we don’t know what it is or what the legislation says, so, as Chad points out, how do we question what we don’t know.”

Golden Coun. Caleb Moss agreed.

“This is clearly party politics at the provincial level,” he said. “The most I could support now is that we ask to be consulted (in the future).

But Demenok was emphatic in his desire to be proactive, maintaining a speculative tax on a recreational property would “shoot the tourism industry in the foot.”

“I think if we wait, it will be too late,” he said, pointing out that of the 5,011 residents in the South Shuswap, 1,511 are seasonal. “Do we want to put the onus on them?”

Demenok said a two per cent tax on a million-dollar home would be $20,000 annually.

Related: Okanagan realtors add voices to anti-speculation tax coalition

“And what happens if a young family buys a million-dollar property and has to sell it (because they can’t afford to live on it)? asked Rysz.

Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee, who is not seeking re-election, wished directors luck in their attempts to keep the speculation tax at bay.

“It the government gets enough letters, hopefully they’ll re-think, so the government gets it right or does away with it and comes up with a better approach,” he said.

Chair Rhona Martin said she had heard a lot of concern about the proposed tax at UBCM and would discuss the initial letter with CSRD Chief Administrative Officer Charles Hamilton and add recent comments prior to sending a new one to the finance minister and Premier Horgan.

“And tell them this is the second letter and that they never answered the first,” said Cathcart.


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