VANCOUVER (July 19, 2019) – BC Liberal MLAs are again urging John Horgan and the NDP to listen to communities after the City of Vancouver proposed new split zoning regulations to relieve property tax pressures on small businesses. The NDP responded by saying the government will look into the issue but warned that it will take time to study – a response BC Liberal Finance Critics Tracy Redies and Shirley Bond say ignores the urgency of the situation.
“In typical NDP fashion, John Horgan is avoiding taking real action by promising yet another study – this time on the split zoning issue,” says Redies, MLA for Surrey-White Rock. “But businesses throughout the Vancouver area are facing the immediate decision of whether they can afford to continue operating in this province or if they need to close up shop for good. They don’t have the luxury of waiting around for John Horgan to make up his mind.”
Currently, some small businesses are taxed on the development potential of unused airspace above their buildings – a practice that has doubled or even tripled property taxes for these businesses in recent years. Split zoning would create a new property subclass, allowing municipalities to tax unused airspace above local businesses at a lower rate than the current commercial rate. The City of Vancouver spent several years studying the issue before referring it to the province.
“Since coming into office two years ago, John Horgan has continually ignored the voices of individuals and communities impacted by an issue or policy decision,” says Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount. “Whether it was the NDP’s botched caribou recovery plan, the arbitrary and phony speculation tax, and now any thoughtful consideration of split zoning for municipalities, the concerns are simply ignored. John Horgan needs to start governing for all of B.C. – not just listening to the voices of a select few.”
“Local businesses are calling for this change, loud and clear,” says Redies. “But rather than recognizing the legitimate experiences and concerns of municipalities and business operators, John Horgan and the NDP are once again taking a government-knows-best approach. Without immediate action to reduce the taxes that keep piling up local businesses, from mom-and-pop shops to art galleries, will have no choice but to close their doors – leaving our cities less vibrant and less prosperous. B.C.’s small businesses – and the communities they serve – deserve better from their government.”
In addition to higher property taxes, B.C. businesses are also being charged the speculation tax on their unused airspace. This comes at a time when B.C. businesses are facing a number of threats to their competitiveness, including John Horgan’s new employer health tax. Since forming government in 2017, the NDP has introduced 19 new or increased taxes.