The foreign buyers’ tax in B.C. increased to 20 per cent in 2018, up from 15 per cent in 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Court rejects Chinese citizen’s constitutional challenge of B.C.’s foreign buyers’ tax

Judge rules that the tax does not discriminate based on race or national origin

The B.C. Supreme Court dismissed this week a Chinese citizen’s challenge of the province’s foreign buyers’ tax.

In his decision, Justice Gregory Bowden rejected Jing Li’s argument that the additional property tax doesn’t discriminate against people based on ethnic or national origins, and instead focuses 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.

Jing, who moved to Canada in 2013 and is not a Canadian citizen, accused the province of violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and discriminating on the basis of race, nationality, ethnic origin or colour.

ALSO READ: Election results means more tax for foreign buyers, little change on mortgages

Jing purchased property in Langley in July 2016 for roughly $559,000, with GST of $28,000. The final payment was due that November, when the tax was in effect, and Jing had to pay an additional $84,000.

Her lawyers argued the tax imposes an unfair burden on immigrants, specifically Chinese people, whom they referred to as the largest group of immigrants in Greater Vancouver and “more likely to purchase real estate than others.”

They 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, citing the expert testimony of Simon Fraser University urban studies professor Andrew Yan.

His research argues that Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Chinese descent are “equally affected by housing affordability and equally will benefit from any measures that improve affordability.”

Bowden added that the tax received “overwhelming support” among Asian people 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.”


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