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Kirk LaPointat at a news conference on July 14, 2014.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

Unspinning the City: Every week, The Globe and Mail will look at a few key campaign statements and test them for truthfulness

"I've yet to see anyone explain to me an enforceable option. I've heard lots of things thrown out. They do it here, they do it there. Well, there is not Vancouver, Canada. It doesn't have our complications. The Charter of Rights, B.C. law, Vancouver Charter, any number of things."

Kirk LaPointe, mayoral candidate, Non-Partisan Association

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Should vacant Vancouver properties be taxed?

The Coalition of Progressive Electors and the Green Party have already said yes in this civic election campaign.

But Mr. LaPointe, at a Globe editorial board Thursday, said several lawyers have told him the introduction of such a residency requirement would undoubtedly end up in court.

"They've told me the same thing – let me know when you're going to be doing it, because I'll reconfigure my law practice and beat you in court thousands of times," he said.

Jonathan Baker, a municipal lawyer and former NPA councillor, said a duty on vacant properties would require an amendment of the Vancouver Charter. He, too, questioned how the tax would be implemented.

"I think it would be extremely difficult," he said in an interview. "… First of all, are you going to tax people for going out of town? The snowbirds, who want to go to Arizona for the winter, do they get taxed? Are you just going to earmark it to people who are not citizens?"

Bill Buholzer, of the law firm of Young Anderson, said he does not believe there is any basis for such a tax in the Vancouver Charter at the moment.

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"We have this principle in local government law that municipalities don't have any powers, including any taxation powers, other than the ones that the provincial government has given them. And I'm not aware of any taxation power the City of Vancouver would have in relation to vacant properties," he said in an interview.

However, Mr. Buholzer said the provincial government could give the city the authority to introduce such a tax, if requested.

Mario Canseco, of polling firm Insights West, said a recent survey found greater than 70-per-cent support for a tax on vacant Vancouver properties. However, he too, questioned the legality and practicality of such a measure.

"It's kind of like when you ask Canadians about the Senate. 'Let's do away with it, we're tired.' But once you start to peel the onion you realize how difficult this is going to be," he said in an interview. "… It registers very high as an idea, but the actual implementation, it's definitely got a long way to go."

The city is expecting a report with detailed statistics on the housing market in the next year.

***

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"I believe it's a civic government that looks after its friends and doesn't look after people that are not its friends."

Mr. LaPointe, during the editorial board meeting, said he had spoken with "a wide array of builders" who had expressed concern those closest to Vision Vancouver were getting preferential treatment.

However, when he was pressed, Mr. LaPointe could not offer any specific evidence to support the claim..

The city e-mailed a news release in July that said it issued a record $1.12-billion in building permits during the first six months of the year. That, the city said, was the highest amount since before the recession.

When asked whether that meant only Vision's friends were getting the permits, Mr. LaPointe repeated his stand that from what he's heard, Vision has been "a government for its friends."

Mr. LaPointe has this week blasted Mayor Gregor Robertson for "corruption" due to a $102,000 donation to Vision from the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The mayor has denied any link between the donation and the city's decision not to contract out jobs.

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Political experts have said the issue highlights the need for campaign finance reform at the municipal level.

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