NDP housing critic David Eby.

NDP housing critic David Eby.

Foreign buyer tax fix overdue, critic says

Premier Christy Clark 'looking for cover' from turmoil over US president Donald Trump's immigration moves, NDP's David Eby says

The B.C. government’s decision to exempt people with Canadian work permits from its 15-per-cent foreign buyer tax on Metro Vancouver housing purchases should have been included when the tax was imposed last summer, the NDP housing critic says.

Premier Christy Clark announced the change at Chinese New Year celebrations in Vancouver on the weekend, contrasting it with U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel and refugee restrictions imposed on countries associated with terrorism.

“We want the best and brightest to be able to come to British Columbia,” Clark said. “We’re going to lift the foreign owners tax on people who have work permits, who are paying taxes and living in British Columbia, as a way to encourage them to come.”

NDP housing critic David Eby said the change has been advocated by universities and technology companies who are trying to attract skilled workers and managers to move to B.C.

“I think they were just looking for cover for changing their minds on it,” Eby said Tuesday. “The major tech firms, the major employers in the Lower Mainland like SFU and UBC, were all saying the same thing: ‘This hurts our ability to recruit the skilled workers we need. We’re already having a problem with high housing prices, and now this tax makes it even worse’.”

Related: Change of heart on foreign buyer tax too late for Langley family

The foreign buyer tax was imposed in August, added to provincial property transfer tax for buyers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Opposition critics called for a tax to target real estate speculators, identified as people who own property don’t pay income tax in B.C.

The NDP proposal would see an annual property tax surcharge on Metro Vancouver home owners who do not report income in B.C. Eby said there would be an exemption for long-time residents to protect existing retirees from other countries.

New immigration legislation for B.C. takes effect Feb. 1. The Provincial Immigration Programs Act governs the province’s nominee program, recommending people with in-demand skills for immigration approval by Ottawa.

The B.C. legislation sets fees for provincial nomination, allows for inspections to monitor compliance and implements a review process for refused applications.


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