A woman’s lawsuit which claimed that B.C.’s foreign buyers tax was unconstitutional will not be heard in court after it was struck down by a B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thursday.
According to the reasons for judgement, Justice Gregory Bowden rejected Chinese citizen Jing Li’s argument that the 20 per cent additional property tax doesn’t discriminate against ethnic or national origins and instead focusses on citizenship.
The foreign buyers tax, which was increased by the Horgan government from 15 to 20 per cent in February 2018, was first launched in August 2016 in order to help bring repreieve to an over-inflated housing market in the province’s largest cities.
Li, who moved from Canada to China in 2013 and does not hold a Canadian citizenship, accused the province of violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – particulary Section 15 – which condemns discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, ethnic origin or colour, according to court documents.
Li entered into a contract to purchase a property in Langley on July 13, 2016 for roughly $559,000, with a GST tax of $28,000. But because the final payment was due in November, Li was subject to the foreign buyers tax, which amounted to roughly $83,800. Li paid the additional tax on Nov. 18, 2016.
During a summary trial, Li’s lawyers argued that the tax imposes an unfair burden on immigrants, specifically Chinese people, which they called “the largest group of immigrants to the [Greater Vancouver Regional District] and more likely to purchase real estate than others,” the document reads.
Li’s lawyers also urged the court to consider how the tax “perpetuates prejudice towards, and the stereotyping or disadvantages of Chinese people in B.C.”
But Bowden sided with the lawyers representing the province, and the expert testimony of Simon Fraser University urban studies professor Andrew Yan whose research argued that “Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Chinese descent are equally impacted by housing affordability and equally will benefit from any measures that improve affordability.”
Bowden also noted in his decision that the tax received “overwhelming support for the tax among Asians living in Greater Vancouver, and that the tax is intended to address the unaffordability in the region – specifically in Vancouver – which he said has “become one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world.”