Viewpoint: Speculation tax unfair for ex-pats

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By RALPH GRIERSON

While in the process of writing this letter, I learned that the Gulf Islands would be exempt from the B.C. government’s proposed “speculation tax.”

This means I will not be affected by the tax at this time. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I could be affected if I choose to buy a home in Vancouver or Victoria at some future time. So, I will finish my letter on behalf of others, like me.

My wife and I are both Canadian citizens. I was born in New Westminster, B.C. and she in Saskatoon. We grew up in Burnaby and met at Burnaby South High School. Following high school, I worked as a musician at The Cave Supper Club and played many CBC radio and television shows in order to raise money to study music at the University of Southern California.

My wife, Caroline, received her nursing degree from Vancouver General Hospital and went on to get her nursing administration degree from the University of Western Ontario.

After receiving our bachelors degrees, we married and began our life together in Los Angeles where I continued my studies and began to realize my dream of playing on movie soundtracks, with a small concert career on the side.

At the time, the U.S. would not recognize dual citizenship, and we refused to renounce our Canadian citizenship solely for the right to vote. We stayed on green cards for some 35 years until the U.S. recognized dual citizenship, at which time we became dual citizens.

Our dream was always to be able to return to Canada someday, and as a result we purchased a home on Salt Spring Island in the ‘80s. Eight years ago, we knocked down the existing structure and built a very green, rammed-earth home in its place.

Our goal is to spend five months a year there, and seven months in Los Angeles. We spend three months in the summer, and then make other two-week trips throughout the year. This is our Canadian home and it is not possible to rent it out and still come and go as we desire.

We’re already being penalized for not spending more than six months a year there, by having to pay higher property taxes and not qualifying for medical care. We can’t even ride the ferries as seniors.

All of our income was made in the U.S. and we are spending close to half of that income in Canada on our mortgage, homeowners insurance, property taxes, car insurance on two cars, utilities and living expenses.

Some years ago, I suffered a career-ending injury to my wrist. We are now on a fixed income consisting of a pension, social security and an ever-dwindling royalty stream. Our Canadian income consists of a combined monthly Canada pension of $161.33. Therefore, as you might imagine, we are already struggling to maintain this dream of being able to spend half of our time in our homeland. If we were to become subject to this tax, we would no longer be able to live in Canada, which seems counterproductive.

I understand that there is a need to stop foreign speculators from inflating the price of housing and limiting the supply. But, there must be a way to adjudicate cases like ours. I’m sure we’re not the only Canadians who want to be able to retain their roots and support their home country.

The writer lives part-time on Salt Spring Island.

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