Vancouver city council has decided to oppose the additional school tax by the province on homes valued at least $3 million.
Council voted 7-3 to ask the B.C. NDP government to withdraw the tax that will take effect in 2019.
Casting the affirmative votes were Councillors Rebecca Bligh, Melissa De Genova, Sarah Kirby-Yung, and Colleen Hardwick of the Non-Partisan Association; and Adrianne Carr, Pete Fry, and Michael Wiebe of the Green Party of Vancouver.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart, and Councillors Jean Swanson and Christine Boyle of the Coalition of Progressive Electors and OneCity, respectively, cast the negative votes. NPA Councillor Lisa Dominato was absent during the vote.
Homeowners protesting the additional school tax came to city hall, hoisting placards on the gallery above council chambers during the deliberations Wednesday (December 12).
The motion against the school surtax was brought forward by Coun. Bligh of the NPA.
In her closing remarks, Bligh related the story of a man who spoke to her during a break.
According to Bligh, the man and his wife are in their 80s, and they own a house valued $78,000 and sitting on a land worth $5 million.
At present, Bligh continued, the man pays $15,200 in annual property taxes. With the school surtax brought by the B.C. NDP, the person will have to pay an additional $8,400 in 2019.
In order to afford the tax, Bligh said that the man told her that he would have to draw money from his registered retirement income fund.
"It's being forced upon him to take these actions," the NPA councillor said.
According to Bligh, the provincial government was intent on making a “political statement” when it introduced the additional school tax.
“It is where the divisiveness started,” Bligh said.
Bligh, a first-term councillor, was met with applause from the gallery after her final statement.
Bligh’s original motion was amended by Coun. Fry of the Greens, making it more concise.
The final motion approved by council resolves that the city mayor writes the provincial government, and the leaders of the B.C. Liberal party and B.C. Green party “requesting that the Province withdraw the proposed surcharge on the provincial school tax as an incursion onto an established municipal land tax base”.
Fry told his fellow councillors that the additional tax “does not do the right job”.
According to Fry, the levy does not contribute to housing affordability.
Mayor Stewart, for his part, recalled that he supported the tax during his election campaign in October this year.
Stewart told councillors that he will write the letter being required of him by the motion.
The additional tax rate is 0.2 percent for homes valued between $3 million and $4 million. Homes over $4 million will get an additional 0.4 percent tax.
Vicki Lum was one of the protesters who came to city hall. According to her, the levy was “fraudulently named” as a school tax because revenues will go to the province’s general fund, and not for schools.
“It’s totally unfair,” Lum told media. “It’s unfair to select just a small group of people.”
Mary Lavin, a teacher, helped organize the protest at city hall.
Lavin told media that the tax is “discriminatory” because it targets a select group of taxpayers.
Lavin belongs to a group called STEPUP or the Society to Encourage Political Understanding & Participation.
After the council vote opposing the school surtax, STEPUP issued a statement noting that 21,425 homes in Vancouver are impacted by the levy.
“These homeowners will pay an estimated $118 Million in additional property tax in 2019,” according to the group.More