Gulf Islands exempted from speculation tax

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The Gulf Islands have been granted an exemption to the controversial speculation tax following weeks of lobbying to the provincial government.

The ruling was announced Monday by Finance Minister Carole James.

“There is no question that I have heard from a range of people, organizations and businesses,” she said in detailing the changes.

The NDP government said the speculation tax announced as part of the Feb. 20 budget was intended to help regulate the housing market in urban areas by fighting flipping and the influx of money from outside of the market. The government  first proposed taxing vacant homes at a rate of .5 per cent in the first year and two per cent in the second.

The initial broad application of the tax meant that some rural communities within urban regional districts were included.

Salt Spring realtor Susan de Stein had been vocal about the tax’s negative impacts on the island’s tourism and construction industries.

“I’m elated the Gulf Islands have been exempted from this tax,” she said on Monday, “but I am still very disappointed in the nature of the tax itself.” 

Saanich North and the Islands Green MLA Adam Olsen said his office had received hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls from people opposed to the speculation tax.

“I’m glad that the government has listened to these concerns and recognized that this tax doesn’t make sense for rural areas like the Gulf Islands,” he said Monday.

For more on this story, see the March 28, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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