Local mayors to meet premier Monday to talk speculation tax

A date has been set for a meeting between local mayors and Premier John Horgan.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater will meet with Horgan on Monday, to make their case against the proposed speculation tax.

Horgan had recommitted to meeting with the mayors last Friday, when he appeared on the Early Edition.

Basran says that promise caught him off guard.

"Up until then, he was not willing to meet with us. In fact, I received a letter a few weeks ago saying that the premier would not be meeting with me on this matter, and would be referring me to the finance minister. So, very happy to see that (Horgan) has changed his mind, and is willing to sit down with Mayor Findlater and I," he said.

"So we plan to take that opportunity to impress upon him the negative consequences of the potential implementation of a speculation tax."

Findlater says Horgan committed to meeting earlier this year, but has not been returning phone calls and emails since. That came after a meeting with Findlater, CAO Jim Zaffino, and Finance Minister Carole James.

Basran says one of his many concerns to raise is how the tax affects the tourism industry, as he's received many emails from Albertans who are cancelling vacations to Kelowna.

"That to me is very concerning, because we know that there are a lot of seasonal operators in our community who only have 2-3 months to be able to make their living," he said.

"When we have some of our best visitors and guests saying 'we're not coming, we don't feel like your province wants us here,' that is a major concern."

Basran also weighed in on the spring flooding, and says Kelowna was fortunate to have avoided significant damage this spring.

He says mitigation work around creeks and the lake will likely become the rule, not the exception.

"This is climate change at work, this is our new reality. So we need to start preparing for this new reality, and that means potentially preparing every year. As we saw this year, undergoing infrastructure works to maybe put in more permanent works. So that perhaps we don't have to, every year, put up temporary structures."

Basran says there were some tense moments around Mission Creek this year, as flows were rapidly increasing.

He says there were complaints after trees were removed near river banks, but that it had to happen to improve the flow.