I n September, Vancouver City Council approved an array of new and increased fees for businesses and residents. Individuals adopting an exotic bird would now pay a $300 fee; standard business licences increased 46 percent, to $250. The motivation behind the fees was simple: to offset the proposed increases in property tax—which had risen by 10.7 percent in 2023, a hike obviously unpopular with homeowners—for the coming year. “I know increases like this are hard,” said Vancouver mayor Ken Sim when the raise was announced. “Frankly, they suck.”
Everyone loves to complain about taxes, but in Vancouver, this familiar tune strikes an off-key note. The city’s property tax rate is the lowest of any major city in Canada, less than half that of Calgary or Toronto, and for the owner of a $2 million home, that 10.7 percent increase amounted to just $326. As a millennial, I could return the advice my generation has so often received: just skip a couple of lattes each month and you won’t even miss it.
This beleaguered attitude is nothing new. In 2018, NDP MLA David Eby introduced an additional school tax on BC homes worth more than $3 million, which caused affected homeowners to revolt. Signs began sprouting like mushrooms on manicured front lawns: “Eby wants to confiscate your hard-earned home savings” and “Eby’s penalizing hard working Canadians hurts seniors the most.” (Unmentioned is the difference between senior owners and the much more vulnerable demographic of senior renters.) Therein lies the contradiction at the heart of the persecuted property owner: their wealth is deserved, by virtue of their lifetime of hard work and careful planning; at the same time, it’s not fair to tax them in proportion to that home’s staggering value. One protester told Global News, “I don’t think people who live in this neighbourhood should be punished because their house prices have gone up.” The same logic would dictate that they should not reap those tremendous gains when they sell (or die and pass them along, tax free, to their children), but you never hear anyone arguing that point.