The province is “stonewalling” the City of West Kelowna’s request for more information on the controversial speculation tax, Mayor Doug Findlater says.
Representatives of the Freedom of Information Office say more time is needed to comply with the request, citing the complexity of the issue. West Kelowna has asked for all documents related to the tax, and the specific reasons why the city was included in its applicable areas.
“Both requests are quite lengthy,” Chelsea Fern, an FoI analyst, wrote in a letter to West Kelowna, adding there were more than 1,700 pages of materials to be reviewed.
The office asked West Kelowna for a 30-day extension to complete the request, making the new deadline for receipt of the documents Oct. 3. The city granted the extension, but with some grumbling by the mayor.
“I want it in the public domain, the continued stonewalling of the provincial government regarding West Kelowna’s request for information on how we got ourselves into the speculation tax,” Findlater said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“They just seem to be totally willing to not be forthcoming, offering a litany of excuses,” Findlater says.
The tax is targeted mainly at out-of-province owners of properties that are left empty for more than six months of the year. It will take effect this fall, at the rate of one per cent of a home’s assessed value.
West Kelowna officials estimate the tax will apply to about 600 properties in the city, with the owners collectively paying about $10 million to the government.
City officials say the tax will slow new development, which in turn will depress employment in the construction trades.
As well, the city will be deprived of millions of dollars in municipal fees paid by builders of new housing projects, officials say, and they raise the prospect of municipal tax hikes to offset the losses.
The government says the speculation tax, which will also apply in Kelowna but not in Peachland or Lake Country, is intended to bring additional properties to the rental market and cool what it says is an overheated real estate market.