Security concerns blamed for delayed meeting on school tax hike
David Eby has postponed a town hall meeting on the NDP's school tax hike over concerns that wealthy homeowners would try to crash the event.
Eby planned to meet with constituents in his Vancouver-Point Grey riding Tuesday evening and hear their concerns about the tax, which targets homes valued at more than $3 million.
But hours before the sold-out event, the high-profile cabinet minister announced he'd pulled the plug to avoid being swarmed by "angry" property owners from outside his constituency.
"It was simply out of control," Eby said. "There were emails going around saying people should march on into the event even if they didn't have tickets. And we had seniors and high school students working the doors, they're not security guards."
Opponents of the tax were being egged on by Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, who sent out a mailing urging people to attend the meeting "whether (they) have a ticket or not."
And Eby said two separate real estate agencies were doing the same, even going so far as to run ads encouraging people from outside the riding to attend. One newspaper ad, provided to CTV News by NDP staff, warns people their home equity is in jeopardy, and advises them to attend the Point Grey event regardless of how full it is. It was credited to a realtor in Kerrisdale.
Eby said he was surprised to see so much organized opposition to what he described as a "very modest tax" on homes that have skyrocketed in assessed value.
"This particular tax is on residences that have appreciated 400 per cent in 10 years," he said.
The NDP's school tax increase, which is charged on homeowners' annual property tax notice, amounts to 0.2 per cent on homes assessed between $3 and $4 million, and 0.4 per cent on homes worth even more.
Supporters applaud the tax for taking a small piece back from people who have benefited from soaring property values – the region's "real estate bonanza" – while opponents argue it unfairly targets some seniors and middle-class families who have lived in their homes for decades.
"The people who are getting those tax bills are generally living on fixed incomes," said Wilkinson. "A lot of them are saying they do not want to go into debt to pay an NDP tax."
The Liberal leader also criticized Eby for getting cold feet in the face of protesters.
"They want to go talk to a government minister about the taxes they have trouble paying," he said. "These are people who've lived in their homes for 30, 40, 50 years. They're not a safety threat."
Eby has promised to organize another meeting where he can hear his constituents' concerns in a safe environment, and noted homeowners will have the option to defer payment on the tax until they sell their home if they can't afford the hike.
"There's programs in place so people aren't displaced by this," Eby said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Scott Roberts