On Sunday, Premier Christy Clark announced the province would no longer be charging the 15% foreign buyers’ tax to people with B.C. work permits.
The province says it’s because demand has cooled enough to ease the restrictions, but investigative journalist Bob Mackin with TheBreaker.News says he’s not convinced.
Instead, he tells Steele & Drex pressure from big money donors could be behind the change of heart.
LISTEN: Bob Mackin talks real estate donations and the foreign buyers tax
Mackin says there’s no question the real estate industry is one of the B.C. Liberals’ biggest donors.
He says in February of last year, according to the party’s own disclosures, some of the biggest in the business including the Wall Group, Townline, and Onni gave $1.65-million to the party – all on a single day.
That amount is enough to pay the party’s entire payroll and benefits for a year.
Mackin says according to one of his sources close to the party, that money was all pledged during an intimate private dinner event with Premier Clark and Deputy Premier Rich Coleman.
“Things were booming, the party was never going to end it seemed for them, and they were called together at the Wall Centre, just a small group of them, and asked to dig deep. And it turns out that they did.”
Mackin says he’s asked both the Premier and Coleman’s offices about the day in question, and received no response.
But he says a review of Coleman’s official calendar shows he took a Helijet to Vancouver that day, returning to Victoria with the premier the following one.
Mackin says his source tells him those same real estate leaders didn’t take kindly to the imposition of the foreign buyers’ tax last summer.
“These people were not happy when the announcement was made last July, and some of them were telling the party that they were going to stop writing cheques,” he says.
CKNW has not independently verified that claim.
But Mackin says the public record as far as donations go tells the tale.
“And it looks like some of them didn’t write big cheques after February of last year, and we haven’t seen them write big cheques, according to some of their most recent disclosures.”
He says prior to the 2013 election, major real estate donors like the Walls and Redekops contributed $1.6-million to the Liberal war chest over a two day period – something we haven’t seen this time around, with fewer than 100 days to the election.
Attracting skilled workers
That’s certainly not the story the government is telling, instead of saying the tax is working so well it can now be loosened up.
In response to a question from the Steele & Drex show about the reasoning behind the tax, the Ministry of Finance sent the following statement:
Now that the additional tax has effectively cut back the excessive demand we were seeing last year, we are in a position to make the adjustments necessary to help ensure we can keep attracting highly skilled workers.
We have been asked to examine ways to provide relief from the additional property transfer tax for those who are coming to B.C. on work permits to live and contribute to our province.
We believe that people should be able to come to BC to work, pay taxes, and contribute to our economy. We want to make sure BC can continue attracting high-skill workers in the tech sector and others, who come here and create more jobs.
Sectors like the tech industry, advanced education, and others need to draw on expertise from around the world in order to compete, flourish and create more jobs for British Columbians.
The additional tax has been effective and it will continue to apply to speculative foreign investment that can distort the Metro Vancouver residential real estate market.