West Kelowna council to get report on controversial speculation tax

The City of West Kelowna is gathering public feedback on the province's new speculation tax, which targets properties owned by people who don't live in them full time.

That tax would affect Kelowna and West Kelowna, along with communities in the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland, and in areas surrounding Nanaimo and Victoria.

Targeted properties would be ones whose owners don't live in BC, and taxed at a rate of 5 dollars per 1000 dollars in assessed value - a tax that's set to quadruple next year.

Last week, Councillor Rick de Jong says he's as upset as anyone.

"We were as blindsided about this as the general public. There was zero consultation from the province with us in this regard," he said.

"It's heavy-handed - and I look forward to the report, because this is a critical issue. There was no consultation."

de Jong also didn't hold back in his mock praise of BC's finance minister.

"How the provincial government can do something that impacts us so greatly, without even having the courtesy of having a discussion, let alone consultation with us, is beyond me. And it's just disgusting," he said.

"So let's get our report done, formulate a game plan on how to go back to the province, and try to see what we can do to get this addressed. But well done, Carole James"

Mayor Doug Findlater says it's a one-size-fits-all approach to a nuanced issue.

"If they're concerned about housing prices, it's not just in West Kelowna and Kelowna in the Central Okanagan - the fastest growing community is Lake Country. But I'm not trying to get them on the hook for this tax," he said.

"This is going to distort the local housing market. Some of the people doing these developments are going to go to Vernon and Penticton, because it's very much the same as what it is here. I think that part is really quite off-base."

The city is preparing an update to brief council with at its meeting on March 13.

If you're interested in submitting your opinion on the issue, send it in up until 9:30 that morning.