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

Surrey RCMP detachment. (Contributed file photo)
Surrey RCMP investigating 2 ‘suspicious’ house fires in Newton

Incident happened at 5:11 a.m., Sunday morning

Fraser Health held a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib in Surrey, which would be in what the BCCDC refers to as the Panorama community, on Friday, May 7, 2021. Roughly 400 people pre-registered to get their vaccine the week before. (Photo: Lauren Collins
Surrey communities recording more COVID-19 cases also seeing lower vaccination rates

Those same communities were highlighted in the SPEAK survey, which highlighted disparities in the city

Twenty-nine staff members at Sunrise Poultry Processors Ltd. in Newton have tested positive for the virus, according to an information bulletin from Fraser Health Saturday (May 8). The health authority issued a 10-day closure order, effective May 7. (Image: Google Maps)
29 staff test positive for COVID-19 at Surrey poultry processing plant

Meantime, outbreak over at Surrey Memorial Hospital

The College of Massage Therapists of B.C. says Van (William) Dinh, a registered massage therapist in Surrey and Langley, has had his licence suspended while an inquiry committee panel investigates allegations of sexual misconduct. (Unsplash photo)
Surrey massage therapist suspended amid sexual misconduct investigation

CMTBC received complaint Van (William) Dinh allegedly exposed ‘sensitive areas of the patient’s body’

Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil Friday evening (May 7) to remember 29-year-old corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, who was killed in last weekend’s brazen daylight shooting outside North Delta’s Scottsdale Centre mall. (James Smith photo)
Hundreds gather to remember victim of North Delta shooting

Corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, 29, was killed in what police say was a targeted incident

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

After Bobby Henderson apologized online for his comments to a Toronto reporter, the Langley Rivermen announced that he was no longer team coach and general manager and in fact, had ‘parted ways’ with the franchise in March. (file/Twitter)
Former Langley Rivermen coach and GM apologizes for comments to Toronto reporter

Bobby Henderson blames stress due to the pandemic for his ‘disparaging’ remarks

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 9

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read