Saanich council recently debated a motion calling for the city to ask the provincial government for an exemption on the new housing speculation tax. Unfortunately for Saanich, the motion, pitched by Coun. Leif Wergeland, was a hot mess of contradiction, and nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction made without adequate information.
The motion notes that council has no data on numbers of empty houses in the city, and that the tax seeks to address an issue which is “not present in Saanich.” The motion then raises concerns about the tax impacting affordability. But how could such concerns be founded on evidence, when council admits that is has none?
During the debate on the motion, councilors of various persuasions repeatedly acknowledged that there was a lack of data and information as to the effect of the tax on Saanich. Observers were also treated to Coun. Wergeland’s tone deaf argument that leaving your second (or third) home empty is an unassailable privilege of financial success. Those with two or three empty homes can avoid the tax altogether, while adding to the rental supply, by simply renting their empty properties out.
Unfortunately, council passed the motion 5-4. Mayor Atwell is now in the embarrassing position of asking the government for an exemption to the speculation tax without any idea why (or how it will impact Saanich).
Teale Phelps Bondaroff