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

Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.'s provincial health officer, updates the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
Province ‘ramping up’ COVID-19 vaccination effort in hard-hit Surrey

‘Door-to-door’ registration program in the works, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

White Rock’s Joan Bywater shows the setup she uses when participating in online paint parties hosted by the Seniors Come Share Society. (Contributed photo)
PHOTOS: Virtual gallery showcases inspirations of Semiahmoo Peninsula seniors

‘What is art if not something that motivates more art?’

Surrey Eagles head coach Cam Keith speaks to his players during the break in the action at a game last week against the Coquitlam Express. (Damon James photo)
Surrey Eagles shut out Powell River Kings as BCHL season nears end

Goaltender Tommy Scarfone stops 19 shots to earn shutout

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Man charged after multiple mail thefts in Surrey: RCMP

Police say man was reported to be carrying a crowbar and looking into vehicles

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police photo of suspected cat thief was just a woman with her own cat

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

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

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

The AHL Board of Governors has approved the Vancouver Canucks decision to move their franchise to Abbotsford. (File photo)
AHL approves Canucks’ franchise relocation to Abbotsford

Board of Governors approves move, season set to start on Oct. 15

Most Read