Are you Angry Yet?–Text from speech to WPGRA event regarding the school tax May 2018

I’d like to begin by recognizing we are on the traditional territories of the Musqueam people.

Thank you to the Point Grey Residents’ association for bringing us together.

I am here today to hear from people who are facing a real challenge with the school tax. It’s why I’ve met with more than 30 constituents on this issue even now while the legislature is in a very busy session. My staff have met with and talked with many more. It is why I scheduled a townhall on this issue.

For example, I met with an elderly man I will call Frank who, for some reason, although he owns a $7m house with no mortgage, told me he is living in poverty.

Frank has not been deferring his property taxes to date. He is less likely to defer now because he is receiving flyers that say that the highly subsidized deferral program for property taxes is either not available, or is a way for the government to take his house.

Deferring his taxes would radically improve his standard of living and still leave millions and millions to his four kids.

Another example of people who need assistance, property owners with leases on park board land who are assessed at the full value of the property, although fewer than 20 years are left on their leases. Another example, co-op members who co-own a home used for affordable housing.

But I am facing a very real challenge in hearing these voices and bringing concerns forward.

There is a group of people who are not concerned about the school tax. They are concerned about our government taking long overdue actions on housing and other key files.

Anonymously, they are providing false, and misleading information about the school tax, the deferral program, and what is happening in our community, in a way that directly impacts the lives of real people, like Frank.

[SLIDE]

I’ve put a picture up here, for you to have a look at.

The original home that stood on this site was bought in 2015 for $1.8m.

Larch Construction, a company owned by a Sutton Group West Coast real estate agent, demolished the home, then built this latest version of the Vancouver special and it was sold in 2017 for $4.5m.

It was sold to someone who in the land title registry lists their address not at this house, but at a commercial unit, on the sixth floor in the Aberdeen Centre in Richmond.

The rebuilt home was listed again for sale this year, again by a Sutton Group West Coast real estate agent, just over twelve months later, at $4.7m and it has apparently been sold again.

I understand why this person took the time away from their commercial unit to post a red sign on their investment. I am not on their side.

The Sutton Group West Coast Realtors who work with this person bought a $4,000 ad in the newspaper to encourage people to crash our Vancouver Point Grey community town hall without a ticket.

Phil Gustin of that firm told a reporter why they bought the ad to target the town hall, quote, “Gustin’s fellow realtors chipped in for the ad, because, he said, they fear the tax increase will negatively impact their industry.” Unquote.

Mr. Gustin told the reporter his concern is about quote, “real estate assets” unquote, going down in value.

If Mr. Gustin and his colleagues have a business model based on flipping real estate assets, I do understand why they are angry with me, as their ad suggests.

I am not interested in protecting their business model.

[SLIDE]

Here’s another real estate asset that is angry at me.

Google street view shows this home boarded up in June, 2017. That means this home has been boarded up for at least a year now, in the middle of a housing crisis, instead of being rented to a family.

I don’t know if the businessman and the international representative who own the property jointly will be sending someone here today to express concern about the school tax.

But there’s a reason they’re concerned about our government.

When our new legislation passes, they will be paying at least five times the school tax proposal on the entire property value for leaving it vacant, a consequence of their leaving another hole in a neighbourhood, another impact to local business, because whoever owned this home was too lazy to rent it out.

On a school tax leaflet that you likely received, among other nonsense and hyperbole, you were told about an anti-school tax rally at my office that you should attend in order to kick me out of office.

The rally was not a school tax rally. It was a rally of personal injury lawyers. They are upset about changes to ICBC that will cut into their bottom line.

They had hired a film crew, and they drove cars around the block again and again so they could get video of people honking support for them. My staff say it was surreal, but regardless, it had nothing to do with the school tax or our community.

And yet, there it was on the school tax flyer.

The red signs that you see in front of these homes are distributed by a family that founded a development company that has not one, but two luxury towers under construction downtown.

These are both projects that will be directly impacted by many of our government’s initiatives, including beneficial ownership disclosure, pre-sale flipping disclosure, and the speculation tax.

They are angry with me, and understandably, with our government.

You surely know by now that I had to cancel our May community townhall.

St. James was chosen as the venue because it is accessible and welcoming. It was not chosen as a place that could host a protest, nor was it staffed for a large number of people attempting to show up without tickets.

Mr. Wilkinson, the BC Liberal party leader who is here today, joined the agents at Sutton West Coast, writing an open letter to people and dropping it on their doorsteps to encourage them to crash our community discussion.

He didn’t show up for his own protest, and then he denied writing the letter at all when a reporter asked him about it.

The cancellation of the town hall was a significant loss for our community, and was a source of huge frustration for me. I have never had to cancel an event like that before.

This is the first time I’ve seen a BC Liberal leader in our community since Christy Clark lost her seat here in 2013.

There’s a reason they have avoided our community.

Mr. Wilkinson’s party was in power over the sixteen years that our neighbourhoods transformed from family-centric communities into a real estate flipper, money launderer, vacant home, numbered company, bare trust, unexpectedly rich student and housewife, and speculator paradise, with he and his party refusing to even acknowledge there was an issue until it was far, far too late, and then doing far too little to address the issue, while they literally took millions in donations from the developers who were selling units directly overseas and calling anyone who questioned that activity racist.

Even now, in the last round of party fundraising before our new ban on corporate and union donations kicked in, Mr. Wilkinson has just announced that more than 30 different developers gave more than $10,000 each to his personal leadership campaign. More than one in every five dollars he personally raised came from the development industry.

This event is being held on property that used to be owned by the province, and that Mr. Wilkinson’s government sold off, ignoring our community’s call to partner with First Nations, like the feds did, to ensure our community would have a seat at the table in developing the Jericho lands.

But he is not entirely unavailable. You might not know that Mr. Wilkinson hosted his own town hall on housing this month.

Mr. Pavlov, who is speaking against the school tax this afternoon as an economic expert, was the keynote speaker at this private event on May 3rd. It took place at an elite club for the super wealthy called the Arbutus Club. It costs $40,000 just to get the opportunity to pay annual membership dues there. Only BC Liberal members, and quote “friends” unquote, were welcome.

I understand that many of you are here because you oppose the school tax. It is a blunt instrument, as property tax is generally. And, yet, it is also true that government requires revenue for programs that have been neglected for 16 years, and needs it in a way that has minimal impact on the economy.

Mr. Wilkinson was the advanced education minister, and the previous government raised money by, for example, charging an interest surcharge on student loans. A tax on people who take out student loans. We’ve eliminated that tax. They raised money by charging outlandish fees to those who could least afford it, for Adult Basic Education and English language training. We’ve eliminated those fees.

I understand that you didn’t ask for the housing crisis, and you did not ask for your land value to increase 400% in ten years. Many of you have told me you’d be glad to see property values go down, and families return to our neighbourhoods and our local stores.

The housing crisis that your property values benefited from also devastated people across Metro Vancouver – our government is finally housing people who lived in tent cities for years in Maple Ridge, Vancouver, and Surrey.  You may not know that people moved east, and east, and east, according to their income during this crisis. Labourers took over the homeless shelters. Those with mental illness, addiction, or disability were forced to set up tents outside.

The tax is a fraction of a fraction of the appreciation in your property value, and there is a highly subsidized program that allows you to defer the tax until you sell. While this is generally true, I know that this is not easy for many people, and this description may not match your experience, which is why I tried to hold a town hall, and have now rescheduled it, and why I am here today.

To listen.

If you have difficulty deferring, for any reason, you can contact my office and we can work with you. If you have a challenging situation, I’d like to know about it. And let’s talk about the actual tax, not what the anonymous flyers say.

If you have a $3m home, you don’t pay this tax. At all.

If you have a $4m home, the school tax is $2,000. But our government is eliminating MSP, so if you pay MSP, your family’s net cost of the school tax and the MSP reduction is $200.

Two hundred dollars on a $4m home.

The anonymous flyers also suggest this tax applies to, or is about to apply to, $1m homes. Nonsense.

There are materials that say this is a new tax named by the NDP the “school tax” to deceive you about where the money is going. Nonsense. The school tax not only existed, but was increased by the BC Liberals in 2003.

Please help me stop the people who have other priorities from coming between you and your local MLA, between your vulnerable neighbours and true information and resources that will help them, and between you and my hard working staff and volunteers whose only job is to help ensure your voices are heard.

Thank you.