Island Voices: We should expand the speculation tax

Re: “Everyone loses with B.C.’s real-estate speculation tax,” comment, April 22.

As an ordinary citizen, I would like to reply to Kenneth Mariash’s opinion piece criticizing the B.C. speculation tax.

I think it is appropriate, although I propose an outright ban on foreign ownership.

The wealthy of the world and those dedicated to making money from the specialized economy that surrounds the wealthy of the world should not be depriving our own citizens of living space in any of our cities or regions. This happens because those areas are attractive living places with appealing climate, recreational possibilities, new evolving economies, healthy food, and pleasant, law-abiding people.

Perhaps the province could work something out with Newfoundland, Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, provinces losing population, real-estate value and vital businesses, to present an opportunity for would-be foreign purchasers to revitalize those parts of Canada whose economies are flagging.

They’d have to like snowy winters. They could send over their offspring, to live full-time there and develop businesses, hiring locals to do the required associated tasks. Should the offspring want to become permanent residents and citizens, then they are free to move and live anywhere in Canada, as happens now with immigrants — such are our freedoms.

Prince Edward Island wisely restricts shoreline property and large packages of land from foreign purchasers with an outright ban for those who are not landed immigrants or Canadian citizens.

Cape Cod in Massachusetts and, no doubt, the shoreline towns of Maine have a vigorous local economy of blue-collar workers in the trades, happily earning good livings from maintaining the homes and boats of residents of New York, Baltimore, Washington and Boston. This restricts the living space of newcomers who are not wealthy as reasonably priced apartments or small homes are not readily available in prime locations in Cape Cod.

However, the large numbers of longtime local residents in this economy are self-sustaining over the generations, and their sons and daughters can find employment there and often home-based accommodation. How does this differ from Victoria? It would be in the historical vitality and numbers of the supportive trades in coastal New England and the new climate of restricted immigration in the U.S. limiting newcomers.

Let’s be frank here. The real-estate industry makes money from foreign speculators and speculators in general. Restricting all speculators would probably call into question our commitment to a free economy and capitalism, so no doubt that is going too far. After all, that would restrict developers from building even low- and moderate-income rental or for-purchase housing stock.

Restricting all foreign ownership would be the simplest and most effective method. There always will be grey areas of opportunity, though, with offshore parents or financial interests, and that can be handled by B.C. refining the legal requirements as experience grows with this endeavour.

Of course, policies to encourage less-expensive housing have to be established. Tax incentives for builders and developers? Canadian citizens and landed immigrants living full-time here in Vancouver and Victoria need housing to provide the man- and woman-power to operate the many small and large businesses that could thrive from available personnel.

B.C. could go further in this direction.

Reposted from TIMES COLONIST Janet Doyle