Property tax protest will precede David Eby appearance at West Point Grey Residents Association town hall

    1 of 5 2 of 5

      The next installment in a fight over a new property-tax surcharge will take place on Sunday (May 27) afternoon.

      Attorney General David Eby and B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson are scheduled to appear at a West Point Grey Residents Association town-hall meeting

      It will start at 2 p.m. at the Jericho Hill gym (4196 West 4th Avenue).

      From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, antitax protesters plan to hold a "Stop Eby Taxes Rally" in the field beside the gym.

      "Very important that you come to the Stop Eby Taxes Rally, bring your lawn chairs, your protest signs and your children!" the notice reads on their online petition page. "Your home savings are at risk of expropriation! Make your voice heard!!

      Opponents of the tax have attributed it to Eby, who was the NDP housing critic before the 2017 election.

      Huge signs across the West Side of Vancouver are driving this point home; the residents' online petition has collected more than 15,000 signatures.

      Signs like these are not an uncommon sight on the West Side.
      Charlie Smith

      One of Eby's political allies, Housing Action for Local Taxpayers cofounder Justin Fung, has alleged that these signs violate City of Vancouver bylaws.

      He's also claimed that anyone who places them in their yards could face a minimum $250 fine.

      Finance Minister Carole James introduced this asset tax in the NDP government's first budget.

      She called it a "school tax" even though the funds are flowing into general revenue.

      It imposes an additional 0.2 percent surtax on the assessed value of residential properties beyond $3 million and up to $4 million.

      That will add up to $2,000 in property tax per year.

      The surtax increases to 0.4 percent annually on the residential portion above $4 million.

      This means a person who owns a $10-million home would pay an additional $26,000 in property tax.

      Someone who owns a $20-million home would pay an additional $66,000 each year.

      B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson's constituents in Vancouver-Quilchena have been hit hard by the NDP government's property surtax.

      Eby and Wilkinson on opposite sides

      In a post on his constituency website, Eby pointed out that seniors and families with children at home can defer paying the tax until they sell their homes.

      "The reasons for my support of this tax are based on my belief that the tax is fair, and my knowledge that there are programs in place to reduce impact on those less able to pay in the short term," Eby wrote.

      B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, on the other hand, has characterized the new surtax as a "dangerous precedent".

      He argued in an open letter that this levy could potentially force some people out of their homes.

      "The 'School Tax' isn't what the NDP claim," Wilkinson stated. "It's really an asset tax, designed to charge you based on the assessed value of your home, regardless of what you originally paid, or your ability to pay it. Not only will this tax allow for annual escalating increases, but it sets a dangerous precedent for the government to tax away your personal property."

      A group called Generation Squeeze has already launched a letter-writing campaign urging the NDP government to go further down this road.

      Its founder, UBC professor Paul Kershaw, wrote a report calling for a one percent surtax on homes valued above $1 million.

      That would result in a $10,000 annual surtax on a $2-million home and a $190,000 surtax on a $20-million home

      "Surprisingly, annual property taxes are down across Canada," Kershaw wrote. "For example, B.C. collects $2.5 billion LESS in property taxes today than in 1981, even while the value of real estate has catapulted many homeowners into the global one percent."

      Elizabeth Murphy blog

      Provincial move troubles municipalities

      An alternative point of view has been presented by Elizabeth Murphy, a former city property development officer and former council candidate with Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver.

      She noted on her website that the City of Vancouver "has the highest property taxes in Canada and the Province of BC is proposing to substantially add to this burden".

      "Clearly the Province of BC is proposing to substantially encroach on the municipal tax base if this surtax is implemented," she wrote. "All municipalities should be concerned. District of West Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey have already been talking to the Ministry of Finance."

      Meanwhile, music-industry veteran Bruce Allen, a critic of the surtax, has declared that the antitax protesters have chosen the wrong location for their demonstration. 

      Bruce Allen says West Side homeowners could learn from the tactics of pot activists.

      In one of his regular commentaries on CKNW Radio, he raised an alarm over the possible expansion of the surtax to capture homes valued at $1 million, noting that this would affect a much larger number of people.

      He urged protesters to get out of the West Side and start holding rallies downtown.

      He also suggested that they would generate far more attention if they tied up traffic.

      "Go to where the people are," Allen advised. "Who's going to drive out to a park near Jericho Park gym? Get some profile. Even the potheads figured that out. Get in the people's faces."