B.C. moves to plug a (meaningless) real estate tax loophole

Who is buying all these houses?

Plus, an $800-million gas plant and what B.C.ers think of Kinder Morgan might surprise you

Transfer tax
Thanks to an exhaustive investigation by the Globe and Mail, the B.C. government has pledged to close a loophole that allows some real estate investors to avoid paying the province’s property transfer tax. But here’s the thing, use of that loophole is exceedingly rare. “We know it exists, but we virtually never see it used,” says Richard Bell, a lawyer with Bell Alliance, a firm that specializes in real estate law. The proposal is one of a few ideas that B.C. Minister of Finance Mike de Jong floated with the Globe and Mail on Thursday. Among them, a plan to increase the property transfer tax for high-end luxury homes, which he first mentioned in comments last week on what would end up in the 2016 budget. That happens to be the 2 per cent per cent tax that Premier Christy Clark, earlier this year, said she intended to eventually axe.

Plants and dams
Despite the energy sector slowdown, several major energy infrastructure projects in B.C.’s northeast are moving ahead. On Thursday Veresen Midstream, a Calgary-based energy infrastructure company (which also operates several run-of-river hydro plants in B.C.) announced that it would be building an $860-million gas plant near Dawson Creek, for Encana and a subsidiary of Mistibuishi. “This is the largest gas plant to be commissioned in Western Canada in the last 30 years,” said David Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Veresen Midstream in a statement. Due west, BC Hydro announced on Tuesday that it had signed an eight-year, $470-million contract with a company called ATCO to build and operate a 630,000-square-foot lodge for workers on the Site C dam. To be completed in 2016, the complex—with a movie theatre, lounge and gym—will house 1,600 workers.

A pipeline runs through it
While opposition to Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline have been concentrated in B.C., West Coasters are slightly more positive than their Alberta neighbours that it will ultimately be built. In total, 51 per cent of Albertans believe Kinder Morgan’s pipeline will be built as opposed 53 per cent of B.C.ers, according to polls conducted by Mainstreet Research in September and October and published Friday. Contentious Northern Gateway is a different story. While 53 per cent of Albertans think that Northern Gateway will be built, only 44 per cent of British Columbians believe so (and curiously, views change with age: 63 per cent of respondents under 35 believe the pipeline will be built, as compared to only 38 per cent of seniors). The October poll asked 3,300 Albertans on their opinions on pipelines and the economy, while the B.C. numbers come from a poll Mainstream conducted in B.C. in August.