B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)

B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

B.C. Premier John Horgan started the spring legislature session under fire for his government’s speculation tax on apartments that haven’t been built yet, and the latest grant program for businesses affected by the sudden return of COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining.

Opposition MLAs confronted the NDP government with live examples of businesses hit with new speculation tax bills of up to $6.500 on the unbuilt space above their urban businesses that are closed due to COVID-19 or struggling to stay open. What has become known as the “air tax” is primarily municipal property tax that reflects the current zoning rather than an existing building, and now the province’s speculation and vacancy tax is being applied on top of that.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson told the legislature Monday her ministry is intervening for a handful of cases where property owners are passing on speculation tax to their commercial tenants, but the tax is appropriate for owners who have zoned their property for higher-rise residential.

RELATED: B.C. extends deadline for small business, tourism aid

RELATED: Online sales development fund gets another $10M

“Those people who take the air parcel and rezone it for residential, they are speculating,” Robinson told reporters April 13. “And what that does is of course it triggers the speculation and vacancy tax, if they do not redevelop that land, that air that is now technically in many ways land for homes.

“If the landlord is in the redevelopment process then there is an exemption for them, and they do not have to pass it along. But let’s be really clear. There are about 190 properties in the entire province that are doing the split assessment, and they have by choice decided to reclassify the air parcel above them from commercial to residential. And you do that when you’re planning to redevelop, or it may be the case you’re choosing to reduce your tax burden because the residential portion is taxed at a lower rate, which is, I think, problematic as well.”

B.C. Liberal MLAs questioned Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon on his latest effort to provide coronavirus aid to businesses, this one to compensate them up to $10,000 for losses when provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry imposed an infection “circuit breaker” that shut indoor service at restaurants and pubs for three weeks starting March 30. The short notice left many establishments stocked up for weekend business, then forced to close or restricted to patio service. It also shuttered fitness centres, breweries and wineries, which are eligible to apply for grants in a program that opened on Tuesday

Kahlon refused to comment on examples of businesses qualifying for only $2,000 or more depending on the number of employees, or that the money came from a previous COVID-19 business relief fund that went unspent because not enough businesses could qualify.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The red rock garden in Williams Lake was filled with new rocks in recognition of the National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Red rocks left as reminder of missing and murdered local women in Williams Lake

May 5 marked the National Day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

Kari, a 12-year-old Belted Galloway, produced triplets Wednesday, April 27. Mother and babies are doing fine. (Kelly Sinoski photo -100 Mile Free Press).
Holy cow: triplets born in 100 Mile House

Linda and Don Savjord witnessed a rare experience last week at Bridge Creek Ranch.

Fireman’s Fairways between Chimney and Felker lakes is slated to open soon, following a clean up work bee this Sunday, May 9 starting at 10 a.m. (Photo submitted)
Cleanup slated for Sunday, May 9 at Fireman’s Fairways Golf Course

Fireman’s Fairway is an 11-hole, par 3 course, opened in 1994

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The White House says it is making plans to share up to 60 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 11,075 since the pandemic began

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Most Read