A mounting protest in Vancouver against a tax hike on homes valued above $3-million has prompted B.C.’s Attorney-General to cancel a town-hall meeting, citing security concerns.
Opposition to the tax increase, which was not part of the NDP campaign platform, has been escalating, particularly in David Eby’s Vancouver-Point Grey riding.
The 300 tickets for the event were quickly snapped up. In an interview, Mr. Eby said on Tuesday that his staff contacted the Vancouver police liaison unit to express concerns that people without tickets might try to enter.
Mr. Eby blamed some in the real-estate sector and B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson for the cancellation, because they encouraged people without tickets to attend. Mr. Wilkinson made the suggestion in a public letter.
Mr. Eby said police could not commit officers or offer a security plan.
“My volunteers are high school students and seniors, and we didn’t have a budget for security,” said Mr. Eby, who added the meeting will be held at a larger location later.
“It’s an unprecedented situation for me. I have never had to cancel an event before. We’re not shrinking violets in the Vancouver-Point Grey constituency office, but in this situation it was just too much,” he said.
The Attorney-General’s riding has many homes valued at more than $3-million. He said alternatives are being considered for a gathering, including a telephone town hall. “I prefer face to face if we can do it, and I’d like to do that, but I am looking at all the options,” he said.
The measure, announced in the budget in February, is a province-wide increased school tax on “high-valued” residential properties, including detached homes, stratified condos, townhouse units and most vacant land.
In introducing the tax, Finance Minister Carole James said, “Soaring house prices have benefited many people. We think it is fair to ask those who have benefited from those high prices to give a bit more back.”
The 0.2 per cent tax rate applies to the portion of a residential property’s assessed value that exceeds $3-million, but does not exceed $4-million. A tax rate of 0.4 per cent applies to the portion of the assessed value over $4-million.
Critics have said the tax is unfair to homeowners who plan to use their real-estate assets in retirement.
Mary Ann Cummings, director and secretary of the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association, said the province has showed no willingness to move on the tax.
“We’re doing what we can, which is for people to stand up and say we’re upset about this,” said Ms. Cummings, who noted a rally was to proceed on Tuesday.
The 66-year-old retired lawyer said the tax on her detached home will cost thousands of dollars a year.
She said she and her husband would rather not move. “We paid our taxes. We paid our mortgage. We worked really, really hard and sacrificed a lot. Do I have to move out of my community now?”
In an interview, Mr. Wilkinson noted Mr. Eby, a former executive director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, has long been at the forefront of protest so should not be rattled by a lively gathering.
“I have heard from hundreds of constituents, including some from David Eby’s riding, that they do not have the income that allows them to pay the taxes, so they are going to have to go into debt and slowly erode the savings that they have put into their life plan,” Mr. Wilkinson said.