It's party time! Yea!
I know, it's always party time in Tiny Town. But that's not the kind of party I mean. I mean the Party Party, the political party of which I am the sole member — to date — and from which I'm happy, if exceedingly premature, to launch the 2018 Campagne de Fous. Yes, it's time once again to find which shelf in which closet I hid the coveted Max for Mayor campaign buttons.
Is it absurd to launch a campaign for mayor when spring is still several weeks away and the election isn't until October? Of course it is. Proudly absurd I might add. But it's been a long time since the last opportunity arose to scare the living heck out of you and all indications seem to suggest our current mayor has had enough and is ready to turn the levers of power over to someone else. Besides, we all need something other than Vail Resorts' management to complain about. Why not me?
I can hear you now: "What, again?" Why not? Just because other things have come up in the past to derail my run for mayor — Look! A squirrel! — doesn't mean I'm not serious this time. So in answer to the inevitable question, "Are you for real this time?" I assure you I am... as real as the Easter Bunny, baby.
Since my platform has expanded to address, OK, solve, many of the troubles we've all become acutely aware of since the rise of antisocial media gave even the least informed among us a platform to display our glaring shortcomings, I thought I'd better start extra early this time around. Many planks will be familiar to you. I'm still committed — or should be — to being nobody's patsy and will, therefore, finance my campaign with found money. I still have a plan to down-, er, right-size Whistler, make pay parking as tasty as ice cream on a hot day, save the bears and turn them into a tourist attraction, comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable and solve the housing situation.
It is, in fact, one of my many housing planks with which I'd like to begin. Thanks to the new provincial government's bold steps to smite the interlopers who are driving up housing prices by parking money they need to launder in B.C. real estate, my timing, while early, is nothing if not opportunistic.
Cleverly called a speculation tax, the New Green Democratic Party government has targeted Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna and West Kelowna in their experiment to bring sanity to insane housing markets. The tax would apply to homes owned by people who do not pay B.C. income tax. It starts at one-half per cent of the assessed value of the property this year and rises to two per cent in subsequent years. If you live in B.C., and therefore pay taxes to Victoria, you don't pay the speculation tax. If you only play but don't pay, you pay. Clear?
As mayor, I would insist — OK, I'd ask nicely — Finance Minister Carole James to include Whistler in that plan. Not all of Whistler, mind you. I wouldn't include those properties, let's call them Resort Properties, that pay Tourism Whistler a fee every year and are generally thought of as being the resort's warm beds. If you're from somewhere else and want to buy one of those, we're happy to have you and you can just pay normal Whistler property taxes.
But if you want to buy a market home outside the Resort Properties and you're not a B.C. taxpayer, pony up, dude. Those are homes local residents might be living in if they weren't so damned expensive, instead of waiting and waiting and waiting for the municipality to overcrowd the town with WHA homes.
So what would happen if this plan went into effect. First, the value of Resort Properties would probably go up. Outlanders still want a piece of the dream and Resort Properties here are already cheap compared to what they cost in most chi-chi ski resorts.
Non-resort properties might decline in value. While that probably won't be very popular with those who own them, the only people who might take a bath will be those who have recently purchased. Perhaps there's some way of mitigating their pain.
Some non-residents who own non-resort properties might sell. Well, duh, that's the point. Others won't care; they are buying multi-million dollar properties around the world the way you and I buy chocolate bars. Money has lost any real meaning to them.
When asked if this speculation tax was something Whistler might be interested in, our Chief Administrative Officer repeated the misguided mantra of others as far back as the Big Kahughna when he said Whistler benefited from dark, empty homes that pay property taxes but don't use municipal services.
Say what? Those homes are hooked up to water and sewer. Both systems have to be built to handle them whether toilets are flushed several times a day or only a few weeks a year. The roads in front of them are plowed. The fire department responds if they catch fire.
More to the point, the taxes on them will be paid no matter who owns them.
And it's not like I'm heartless. If non-residents want to own a home that isn't a Resort Property and avoid paying the speculation tax, no problem. Either rent it out, put in a suite and rent it out, rent out a bedroom but one way or another, house a resident. Do that and you can keep the two per cent.
The alternative is to keep doing what we're doing. Chronically underhousing our workforce, playing catch-up with the need to build more employee housing, stuffing our tiny town with more and more workerbees to fuel our ever-expanding need and entertaining disastrous private development proposals to provide "affordable" employee housing.
Given the choice, I'd be happy to slap a tax on non-residents who want to "invest" in our town but not be a part of it. Who don't want to contribute anything but their property taxes to make this an even better place to live. Who treat it as just another line item on their balance sheet. Who are takers, not givers. There are big homes that are Resort Properties for you, have at 'em. Buy all the penthouse condos you can. We're happy to have you invest in the resort. But leave the town alone.
And that's exactly what I'd do if I'm elected mayor. Let the campaign begin.