Legal challenge launched against Christy Clark government tax on foreign home buyers

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      A Vancouver law firm is hoping a judge will certify a class-action lawsuit against B.C.'s new 15 percent tax on foreign buyers of Lower Mainland homes.

      The representative plaintiff is Jang Li, a 29-year-old Burnaby university student, according to a CBC News report.

      According to reporter Eric Rankin, Li paid a nonrefundable deposit of $56,000 on a Langley townhome less than two weeks before the B.C. government imposed the tax.

      She's retained Branch MacMaster, which has launched several class-action lawsuits in the past.

      If the legal challenge succeeds, the B.C. government could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

      Lawyer Luciana Brasil told CBC News that the provincial tax should be struck down because it affects "the conduct and regulation of foreign trade, aliens and the regulation of trade and commerce", which is an area of federal jurisdiction. 

      Last month, prominent Canadian trade lawyer Barry Appleton maintained that the foreign-buyers tax violates the North American Free Trade Agreement because it treats American and Mexican investors in a discriminatory fashion, which is not permitted under Chapter 11.

      He told the Straight that the only explicit exemptions under NAFTA for real estate are for nonresidents of Prince Edward Island and for real estate within a certain distance of the Mexican coast owned by people who are not citizens of Mexico.

      Appleton also claimed that the tax violates many other trade treaties that Canada has entered into.

      Meanwhile, Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati has alleged that B.C.'s foreign-buyers tax violates Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and national or ethnic origin.