KELOWNA – In the first week of launching the “Scrap the Speculation Tax” Coalition 17 different signees jumped on board including the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce. The initiative also generated hundreds of letters from business people, residents, and out of province property owners to the Premier and Finance Minister. Just ten days later, those numbers had grown: 19 in the coalition, 1,400 supporters had sent 7,729 letters to their respective MLAs, the Premier and various Ministers.
There has been strong support from the Okanagan and mid-island regions of the province but support is also coming from areas not targeted for the tax as many realize the negative impact the tax will have on the entire province, particularly in those areas that are dependent on investment or tourists from Alberta and elsewhere in Canada.
One of our members captures the essence of what we’ve been hearing for weeks. “The Speculation Tax has had an immediate effect on the real estate market in the Central Okanagan. We had clients from other parts of Canada who have walked away from accepted offers on properties,” stated Francis Braam, Broker/Owner of Royal LePage Kelowna who added, “We have had numerous clients tell us they are no longer interested in buying in BC. Not only are our customers telling us they are not going to purchase here, the unfriendly tax treatment that BC has introduced to fellow Canadians makes them reluctant to holiday in our community as well.”
The coalition fighting the speculation tax has also made it clear that everyone understands the need to address housing affordability in BC and to their credit, many members of the coalition have proposed alternatives that, instead of being punitive would instead incentivize industry and the private sector to play a much greater role in creating more affordable housing.
The answer is for the government to bring all parties to the table to explore options that would help create more affordable housing without harming the economy, particularly in those regions of the province that depend on investment from Albertans to help drive the local economy. More info is available at www.scrapthespeculationtax.ca
In the meantime, the Kelowna Chamber and others continue to ask the government to explain what metric they are using in determining what cities are targeted for this area-specific tax. Is it rental vacancy rates? Surely there is some rationale the government is using to determine why certain cities have been targeted for this tax while others, some right next door, are not.
On the subject of coalitions, another pop-up last week is being led by the BC Chamber, called “Confidence in Canada”. Started with 30 business associations, by the end of its first week last week it boasted 85 signatories, with more joining every day. Again, the Kelowna Chamber signed on early. Confidence in Canada was formed to stand shoulder to shoulder to ensure the federally approved Kinder Morgan Expansion Project (KMEP) goes forward.
After an emergency meeting April 14 in Ottawa, the Government of Canada announced it will assert federal jurisdiction through pending legislation and work with Kinder Morgan on the financial framework for a potential taxpayer-funded investment in the Trans Mountain Expansion Project to mitigate the risk created by the BC Government’s continued opposition to the project.
“While we commend the Prime Minister for his commitment to assert leadership and convene this meeting, which was called for by business and community associations across the country, the situation has worsened,” said Val Litwin, President and CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile Greg D’Avignon, President and CEO, Business Council of British Columbia, said “This is no longer about a pipeline, it’s about stability, our faith in democracy, the rule of law and confidence in our country.” Is Canada one country or thirteen?
Turning to other advocacy efforts, our Chamber submitted final revisions to six policies that will be tabled at the BC Chamber AGM in Kamloops this May. And yes, we did write a policy on scrapping the speculation tax. We have also drafted a revised resolution that is aimed at encouraging the federal government to take a leadership role in working with the provinces to remove interprovincial trade barriers that are limiting our economic potential. The need for this policy direction was reinforced following the recent Supreme Court decision of R v Comeau.
“We appreciate the importance of the case and understand the decision but see it as a missed opportunity to take a historic step toward freer interprovincial trade,” said Carmen Sparg, Kelowna Chamber President. “We look forward to further discussion of the issue at the BC Chamber AGM.”
Two bits of good news: the World Mixed Curling Championship is debuting in Canada – right here in Kelowna. This fourth edition of the Championship is being hosted by the Kelowna Curling Club October 13-October 20, 2018. Twelve sheets of ice give Kelowna’s club ranking as one of the biggest in Canada. Jock Tyre, GM of the local club says the club “is truly excited to be hosting the World Mixed. This unique event allows an unlimited number of countries to enter straight into a world championship.” We will be ambassadors to the world. Can’t wait.
And in other sport tourism news, the Chamber’s Immediate Past President Tom Dyas, has just signed on to lead the bid team in going after the 102nd Memorial Cup in 2020. The Kelowna Rockets are leading the charge in partnership with the City of Kelowna, Tourism Kelowna and Prospera Place. Rockets President/GM Bruce Hamilton noted at the media conference launching the bid, “It has been a long time (16 years) since the Memorial Cup was in Kelowna and we’re thrilled to have Tom as our Bid Chair.” The Chamber knows Tom, and the Rockets organization and the City of Kelowna will do a fabulous job in putting together a first class bid.
Finally, as always, I welcome the newest members to the Chamber since my last column. They are:
Comfort Keepers; McCurdy Mechanical; Nyrose & Associates; Copperhead Ranch and Land Company; Building Books Solutions; OutGROW OutPLAY; Brandes Leadership Consulting; West Key Graphics; Isa Habash-Freedom 55 Financial; CIBC-Harvey Avenue; NOW Bookkeeping Services; MotherLove Kombucha. Welcome all.
Dan Rogers is Executive Director at the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.