Metro Vancouver mayors call on province to prohibit evictions, defer property taxes
Published Monday, March 23, 2020 6:53PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Metro Vancouver mayors are calling on the province to prohibit evictions, defer provincial property taxes and provide grants to municipalities to help cities weather the financial pain of COVID-19.
In a letter sent to Premier John Horgan Monday that was signed by 20 Metro Vancouver mayors, the municipalities asked for four key relief measures.
The mayors are asking the province to provide support to all renters and landlords; expand provincial property tax deferrals; extend a deadline to send taxes that municipalities collect on the province’s behalf; and provide grants to municipalities as they struggle to provide extra civic services to respond to the pandemic.
In the letter, the mayor of White Rock, Darryl Walker, says that rents in Metro Vancouver are the highest in the country, and he asked the province to halt evictions.
“As well, we urge the provincial government to work with Ottawa to provide support to those renters in financial difficulty and unable to pay rent,” Walker writes. “That way we can better ensure small landlords with mortgage helpers are able to maintain their homes.”
On Monday, Horgan and Finance Minister James announced a relief package for residents and businesses, but stopped short of providing details on how the province would help renters, saying that plan would be announced on Wednesday.
But Horgan did promise that no one would be evicted because of COVID-19, although he also said that evictions that are already in progress will continue. Ontario and Quebec banned evictions nearly a week ago.
Small businesses are reeling from loss of foot traffic, a prohibition on dine-in service in restaurants and a provincial order to close personal services businesses. The mayor of North Vancouver, Linda Buchanan, said a provincial property tax deferral could help small businesses, as well as residents and non-profit organizations.
The province’s relief package includes a number of tax deferral measures for businesses, including deferring tax filing and payment deadlines to September for the PST, the employer health tax, and the carbon tax.
Vancouver’s mayor, Kennedy Stewart, said cities need grants from the province because they are providing extra services to deal with COVID-19 measures, from co-ordinating emergency response to providing “financial relief to impacted local businesses and taxpayers.”
In their letter, the mayors say that municipalities cannot run a deficit or borrow to balance operating budgets, and they say that the municipal and provincial emergency orders that are in effect are reducing their ability to collect local government revenue.