On July 7, 2016, the province released its first batch of data detailing how many B.C. residential properties were sold to foreign nationals. It was a move that British Columbians were begging the government to make for at least the entire year preceding that day.
The Straight filed a freedom-of-information request asking for citizens’ correspondence related to the issue of “foreign buyers, foreign owners, foreign money and/or foreign investment and Vancouver real estate” covering that 12-month period.
The response consists of 848 pages that include 526 emails from citizens on the subject of real estate. The vast majority of those letters express intense dissatisfaction with the B.C. Liberals’ long refusal to act on the issue of foreign money in B.C. real estate.
“You are elected by the people, but your job has given you enough wealth to disconnect from the middle class,” one reads. “You remind me of Queen Marie Antoinette when she learned that the French peasants had no bread. She said, let them eat cake.”
An analysis of these 526 emails, sent either to the premier’s office or the Ministry of Finance, revealed that a sizable minority—109 emails, or about 21 percent—were overtly racist.
“From reading all the news it is clear that the top one percent of Chinese are flocking to Canada,” one reads. “Future generations will suffer the consequences.”
“I heard that an Oriental man sat in his car, didn’t even look at the inside of some building at Salish Court in Burnaby, and purchased them,” reads another. “I am definitely not a racist. However, I feel very strongly that we need to make Canadians a top priority.”
And a third: “I am appalled at how the Chinese are literally taking over Vancouver, and in such sneaky, dirty, underhanded ways.”
Many of those emails expressed a belief that no money made in China was earned honestly.
“It is common knowledge that most of the money from China is either from questionable sources," reads one email typical of that sentiment.
“It is disgusting how this government will sell out the future of B.C. to the Asian hoards that are taking over our city with corruption, deceit, dishonesty,” reads another.
The other 417 emails are not overtly racist, in that they do not express displeasure toward one identified country or ethnicity. However, the vast majority of them do express some sort of generalized anger toward “foreigners”, “foreign money”, or some variation of those terms.
“You have allowed foreign buyers, who are breaking Canadian laws, to make Vancouver a money laundering capital now populated by resentful, angry people,” reads one of those letters.
“Foreign investors are the ones buying up properties, tearing down great older homes and building giant homes as big as they can get away with,” reads another.
Foreign buyers’ interest in Metro Vancouver peaked in late July 2016, after the province revealed it would apply an extra 15-percent tax to non-citizen buyers but just before the tax took effect. During that period, the percentage of Metro Vancouver home sales that went to foreigners was 19.5, according to the B.C. Ministry of Finance. However, from June 10 to June 29, before the tax was announced, foreign buyers accounted for 5.1 percent home sales. By September, the market had begun to stabilize. That month, 1.8 percent of Metro Vancouver sales went to foreign nationals, then 3 percent in October, and then about four percent in both November and December.