A new levy on $3-million-plus homes was a hot topic at last night's Vancouver mayoral debate, which was hosted by Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners' Association.
One of the candidates, Coalition Vancouver standard-bearer Wai Young, called the new "school tax" unprecedented. And she promised to make use of the city's legal resources to battle the province.
Young, a former Conservative MP, told the crowd at the Hellenic Centre that she knows this tax can be challenged in court.
"So if I'm mayor of the City of Vancouver, I will absolutely use all the resources of the City of Vancouver to fight this tax because it is wrong, wrong, wrong," Young declared. "And in addition to that, what we will do is we will take it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada."
Finance Minister Carole James introduced the surtax in the February provincial budget.
It imposes an additional $2,000 annual fee for the first $1 million of assessed value over $3 million. There's an additional $4,000 fee for each $1 million in assessed value over $4 million.
The owner of a $5-million home would pay an additional $6,000 per year, whereas the owner of a $10-million home would be dinged an extra $26,000.
Young accused the province of figuring out how to "put their big hands into your little pockets and take money out of it".
"That's what this tax is all about," she said.
Vancouver First mayoral candidate Fred Harding echoed Young's promise to take the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada, if necessary.
"This is just outrageous, what's happened," Harding said. "This is a con job."
The NPA mayoral candidate, Ken Sim, also promised to fight the tax, but he didn't issue any legal threats.
He merely pointed out that residents of Vancouver are contributing 113 percent more in property tax to the province than they're getting back in funding for public schools.
Sim also noted that property tax is a "big way of raising money" for the city.
"And when the province comes in and takes away our ability to raise money, that actually hurts our city," he said.
Independent mayoral candidate Shauna Sylvester said that she was "of two minds" on the property surtax.
First off, she emphasized that 51 percent of Vancouver residents are tenants, and noted there's a need to build rental accommodation.
She also pointed out that she makes more money on her West End condo every year than she does from her day job at Simon Fraser University, "because of the work of speculators and others".
In addition, she stated that property tax is not normally progressive.
However, Sylvester mentioned that the province generates $25 million more from Vancouver property taxpayers each year than is returned in funding. And that concerns her.
"As the mayor, I would stand up to the provincial government and say 'while I understand what you're doing—no—this is a property tax and that's the city's jurisdiction. And you are undermining our capacity to use the one financing tool we really have to meet the needs of the people of this city. And those needs are great.' "More