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

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Student-nurse Kendra Waterstreet administers the Pfizer vaccine to Litia Fleming at the Waneta Plaza vaccination clinic in the old Zellers buiding. Photo: Jim Bailey
Trail vaccination clinic readies for adults age 40+

B.C.’s state of emergency is extended through the end of day on May 25

Kerry Reed
West Kootenay Fishing Report: Spring fishing, the bite is on!!

Anglers having great results on Kootenay Lake and Columbia River

New Border Bruins owner Dr. Mark Szynkaruk reps team colours with his young sons and wife Tracey. Photo courtesy of the Grand Forks Border Bruins
KIJHL’s Border Bruins sold to Grand Forks doctor

The league announced the sale Friday, May 14

For something a little different this week, Trail Blazers is featuring an historical image from the Kootenay Boundary. This rough and tumble photo shows the Forshaw Ranch near Phoenix, B.C, circa 1914. Photo Credit: Boundary Heritage Facebook Page (via Grand Forks Gazette)
Trail Blazers: Home, home on the range

Trail Blazers is a weekly historical feature

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Tim Miller is selling his 76-foot steel bridge from his property in Burton, B.C. The bridge originates from the railway in Revelstoke. (Contributed)
For sale: a 100-ton 19th century bridge by Arrow Lakes

Bridge is in Burton, B.C. and advertised for $40,000

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Most Read