I see the racism card is being played again, ad nauseum, in the debate around offshore investment in Metro Vancouver real estate
The Finance Minister’s slide show presentation last week that attempted to downplay the situation.
I’m amazed how people try to silence discussion and debate on certain issues by tossing the race card on the table in a vain attempt to make the debate into something sinister and ugly.
The latest dealer from the bottom of the rhetorical deck is none other than Vancouver Sun writer Pete McMartin.
In a weekend column he took to task those who dare question the purpose, methodology or relevance of the finance ministers figures on offshore investment.
You will recall this program had a lively debate last week with Minister de Jong and others on the issue.
But McMartin apparently believes there’s something more sinister at play
He opined that critics wouldn’t be happy with any figures the government released because what they really want is to slam the door on Chinese investment. Period.
McMartin goes on to say critics are cultivating an us versus them dynamic, and even provides his definition of the opinion he thinks the critics hold of Chinese people:
“…devious, dirty monied, tax avoiding, Maserati driving, heritage home destroying, self-ghettoizing Chinese who steal into Canada through our immigration loopholes, outbid us for our housing and abuse the social welfare state that we have created.”
The offering could be written off as simplistic and puerile were it not coming from an award-winning and popular columnist such as McMartin, who then goes on to admit that even he sometimes feels racially tinged resentment toward wealthy immigrants.
Nothing so Neanderthal as a knuckle dragging, mouth breathing Donald Trump supporting white guy. No, what gets McMartin’s stomach acid churning is an 18-year old Chinese kid driving by in a Ferrari with an “N” sticker on the back bumper.
And because of that admission, he seems to think the critics should all be as honest as he is and admit that they’re ranting about offshore investment in housing because they’re racist too.
A few thoughts.
Creating the “us versus them” dynamic, one written word at a time
First there is no doubt a segment of the population is anti-immigrant, anti-Chinese, anti-everyone-and-anything that upsets their predominantly 1950’s perception of what Canada should look like.
They’re a vocal, but thankfully small minority. But lumping all critics into that category createsan“us versus them” dynamic. The very same dynamic McMartin decries as unfair when applied to Chinese.
“Dancing on the head of a pin trying to find a place to live”
One of the reasons I’ve been so vocal on this issue is because the B.C. government has smugly refused to even acknowledge there’s an issue. Not just with offshore investment, but across the board.
All while greater and greater numbers of people are cut out of the housing market. Forget buying a place, now we’re told they can’t even afford to rent.
These are working class, middle class people. Professional people who are dancing on the head of a pin trying to find a place to live.
The Liberals’ “move along nothing to see here” attitude would still be intact if not for the great digging and solid journalism by reporters such as the Globe and Mail’s Kathy Tomlinson and Ian Young of the South China Morning Post, to name two.
Do you think Christy Clark and Mike de Jong would have initiated on their own the investigation that stripped the real estate industry of self-regulatory status? I don’t think so.
Do you think shadow flipping would have become a thing if Tomlinson and company hadn’t done the digging and embarrassed the government into action? No way.
“That doesn’t make me a racist, Pete – it makes me a skeptic”
So pardon me if I don’t leap up and embrace Mike de Jong’s slide show as the ultimate truth about foreign investment.
That doesn’t make me a racist Pete, it makes me a skeptic.
And in my opinion, Christy Clark’s government has provided myriad reasons for skepticism over the way they’ve handled the real estate issue.
That’s why I choose to accept the research and commentary provided by people who’ve actually taken the time and done the research on these issues.
People like UBC professor David Ley, who holds the Canada research chair in geography.
A year ago Ley said the B.C. Government needed to pay more attention to the inflow of offshore cash, and expressed surprise that B.C. hadn’t even looked at the question as other jurisdictions had.
By the way, in an article by Douglas Todd in the Vancouver Sun, Professor Ley also had this to say about those who prefer to sling the allegation of racism:
”Residents of other gateway cities have not been silenced, like people in Metro, by developers who have for two decades made “self-serving” claims that it borders on “racist” to draw links between migration, foreign ownership and the mounting cost of local housing.”
He called the racism charge in Metro Vancouver a “smokescreen”.
“What’s causing high prices is simply an empirical question, and I’m very confident in my data. If we were talking about high housing prices in Kelowna, we would be analyzing the effects of buyers from the Alberta oil patch.”
And Professor Ley isn’t alone. Real estate economist Tom Davidoff, also at UBC, has become a leading voice for the need to have some mechanism in place that would tax offshore investors from every country -not just China, if they buy real estate here but make their incomes outside of Canada.
Nine academics from UBC and SFU proposed a 1.5% property tax surcharge, designed so that homeowners who live in the property and pay income taxes in B.C. would be exempt.
Using some twisted logical gymnastics, McMartin equates a measure like that to a reverse head tax, the tax Chinese people were forced to pay in the late 1800’s in an effort to keep them out of Canada.
I guess all those economists at UBC and SFU are racists too.
“They aren’t racist, they’re afraid”
Like many, I’ve admired Pete McMartin’s writing in the Sun for years, but this piece irritated me to no end.
Not because he called out the racists, but because he lumped all critics in that emotive category.
Maybe it was inadvertent, but when I read the column I thought about all of the people who’ve contacted me expressing serious concerns about their ability to put a roof over their family’s heads.
They aren’t racist, they’re afraid.
And I don’t think they should feel guilty for being anxious over their future and that of their children, especially with no end in sight to escalating prices.