Clark criticized for bringing realtors on Asia trade mission
Published Saturday, May 28, 2016 3:50PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 28, 2016 7:21PM PDT
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has been in Asia since May 24, visiting South Korea, the Philippines, and Japan to promote the province’s trade relationships in the region.
Liquefied Natural Gas, clean energy, and green technology are on the official agenda for the trip, but foreign investment in B.C. real estate is not, which is why some critics say it’s strange that two Metro Vancouver real estate companies have joined the premier on her trip.
University of British Columbia professor Tom Davidoff, who serves as director of the university’s Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, told CTV News the decision to allow real estate agents to join Clark in the Philippines makes for “bad optics” for the provincial government.
“I think this really does invite the question for the province: If foreign demand is not an important driver of the local real estate market, why are realtors going overseas to look for buyers, and why is the premier inviting them along?”
For its part, the province’s Ministry of International Trade told CTV News in a statement that the representatives from Nu Stream Realty and Sutton WestCoast Realty signed up to join the trip through an open application process. Any company interested in joining the premier on a trade mission can apply to be a delegate, provided they pay their own way, the ministry said.
“While real estate is not a specific industry sector of focus on the mission, individuals in the industry may have an interest in connecting with foreign companies that intend to establish a presence in Vancouver and will require information on site selection, leasing office space, etc.,” the ministry said.
Davidoff said he doubts purchasing real estate is an immediate concern for companies looking to do business in British Columbia. If they need to visit the province, such investors can take advantage of B.C.’s robust tourism industry for either short- or long-term stays, he said.
More importantly, for Vancouver-Fairview MLA George Heyman, including real estate companies in a trade mission allows those companies to make cast a wider net in searching for the foreign buyers who are widely blamed for driving up housing prices in Metro Vancouver.
“The premier has said she doesn’t want to interfere with investment coming in, but now it sure looks to me like she’s aiding and abetting major real estate companies to draw in even more foreign investment to drive up housing prices in Vancouver even further,” Heyman said.