MLA David Eby cancels public meeting after B.C. Liberals and real-estate agents organize protest

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      B.C.’s minister of justice and attorney general has cancelled a public event out of "safety" concerns.

      In a Facebook post published early this morning (May 1), David Eby wrote that a town hall that was scheduled for tonight has been postponed because opponents of certain housing and tax policies have encouraged people who do not have tickets for the event to attend in a way that would disrupt the meeting.

      “We were no longer able to ensure only those with tickets could attend, which meant we could not ensure safety,” the Facebook message reads. “We had, as we always do, scheduled high school students and seniors to help us staff the event as volunteers – not as security guards to hold the line against people trying to ‘march on in’ without a ticket, or to escort guests with tickets through crowds of angry people to get them to the front door.”

      Eby, the NDP MLA for Vancouver–Point Grey, went on to explain that the town hall was organized to discuss an increase to school taxes that would affect people who own homes valued at more than $3 million. The tax increase was part of a budget that the NDP introduced last February. Eby’s constituency of Point Grey ranks among the most expensive real-estate markets in the province, and so has served as a base for opposition to the tax change.

      “I thought it would be beneficial to have a community discussion about the school tax, including accurate information about the policy, while giving people a chance to provide feedback directly to government,” Eby wrote on Facebook. “When tickets sold out, we considered a telephone town hall, but settled on a live streaming of the event.

      “In response, ads were run by two separate real estate agencies encouraging non-constituents and people without tickets to attend the event," it continues. “The leader of the BC Liberals personally wrote a letter and distributed it, encouraging individuals to attend “whether you have a ticket or not.

      “We pressed on, knowing the importance of the event to many community members. But the tactics of the opponent groups ramped up.

      A copy of the B.C. Liberals’ letter that Eby mentioned has since circulated online. It’s signed by Andrew Wilkinson, leader of the B.C. Liberal Party and the MLA representing Vancouver-Quilchena.

      “This new tax calls for a dramatic increase to your property taxes based on the current assessed value,” it reads. “This is a potentially devastating proposition for ordinary homeowners in our real estate market – many of whom have lived in their homes for generations.

      “Go to David Eby’s townhall – whether you have a ticket or not – at St. James Community Square,” Wilkinson’s letter concludes. “Help me fight back by making our voice heard.”

      An online petition organized in opposition to the school tax has garnered more than 9,000 signatures.

      “The tax is a shameful tax grab to extract money from a vulnerable minority, a poorly selected group of homeowners, on the pretext that they are somehow more fortunate than others, but with total disregard t their incomes, financial circumstances or ability to pay,” it reads.

      An update posted on the petition’s website after Eby cancelled tonight’s meeting states that a protest against the tax will still go ahead.

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