West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater left a meeting with Premier John Horgan Monday with some optimism concerning the province’s proposed speculation tax.
Findlater, and his Kelowna counterpart Colin Basran met the premier Monday morning to try and get the province to exclude the two cities from the newly proposed tax.
“Congenial,” said Findalter in characterizing the one hour meeting.
“He was listening, he was engaged.”
Findlater says he presented the premier with new data and information he hopes can sway the premier off the tax which both cities say is already having an adverse affect on development on both sides of the bridge.
“We presented him with additional information challenging their figures on vacancy rates, and asked them to do more work on that.”
West Kelowna’s vacancy rate is being lumped in with Kelowna’s, which Findlater says is not accurate.
“We have data on new units coming on stream that would change it,” he said.
“As well, we understand their data doesn’t include single-family home rentals or secondary suites. Well, duh, that’s a big part of the rental market. It’s not just condos.”
The mayor also continued his argument that West Kelowna, as a young, 10-year-old city, is in a unique situation. Revenues lost would have an affect on reserves and the city’s infrastructure upgrade program.
“I’m cautious about it,” he added. “This meeting was left open. He agreed to pick up on West Kelowna issues.”
But, Findlater was also realistic, saying the premier indicated the government is “pretty locked in to this.”
If the tax does go ahead, Findlater says the city will have to look at new ways of generating revenues to continue its infrastructure program.
That could mean the addition of a franchise fee on electricity. The city currently charges a franchise fee on natural gas companies, but not for electricity.
He said a fee charged to FortisBC and BC Hydro would raise less than $1 million, but would help make up for some of the shortfall.
“We passed on that before as a new community, but we may have to now in order to make up the revenue shortfall.
“Unfortunately, that gets passed on to consumers on their utility bill. That’s the rub.”
Council will debate that issue this evening.
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