B.C. Premier John Horgan talks housing affordability at a home in Nanaimo last week. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

B.C. Premier says speculation tax won’t impact most Lantzville residents

Lantzville requesting exemption from speculation and vacancy tax

It remains to be seen whether the provincial government will grant the District of Lantzville an exemption from the speculation tax.

Earlier this week, Lantzville councillors voted to send letter to Carole James, B.C. minister of finance, requesting the district be exempt from the speculation tax and empty homes tax, citing concerns around its implementation.

In a brief interview with the News Bulletin, B.C. Premier John Horgan didn’t say whether he would consider granting Lantzville’s request, instead explaining that the government has spent the last year ensuring there are exemptions to “protect those people who were not speculating” but somehow “found themselves” with a vacant home. He also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to meet with municipalities next year to address any issues.

“We’ve also committed to consult with mayors and that would include the District of Lantzville council in the next year to see what the impact and consequences have been,” Horgan said. “At that time, I am certainly confident that Carole [James] will be able to address those issues.”

Horgan said the speculation tax is here to stay since legislation for it has passed following “ample” debate, adding that people have had more than a year to figure out the intricacies of the tax. He also said very few people in Lantzville will actually be impacted by the tax.

“I think when we look at the results after 12 months, Lantzville will come around to understand that there is a very small number of people affected by this and they can avoid the tax by filling their home with people,” he said.

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The provincial government has taken some heat recently after announcing that all homeowners are required to apply for an exemption from the tax on an annual basis, regardless of whether they have an empty home or not.

Horgan said while he recognizes there has been frustration around the requirement, he doesn’t believe filling out a form is a big deal.

“Citizens fill out forms all the time. You give information to Google and Netflix all the time. You fill out forms all the time. So, somehow when government asks for information this is heresy and I just don’t buy that,” he said. “I understand that people are frustrated but the number of people that will be affected by this in financial terms is so small.”

The implementation of the tax hasn’t been poor according to Horgan, who blamed the Liberals for making it more of an issue that it was. He acknowledged that the government could have done a better job of communicating.

“Always, you can do better but we did what we could with the time available,” he said.

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