The well-connected and prolific Gary Mason wonders in the Globe and Mail just why in heaven we are paying any attention to the howling from those who’ve won Vancouver’s home lottery.

Sarcasm drips from the page, as he calls them “. . . these poor, poor multi-millionaires“.

People sitting on massive, sweat-free and tax-free capital gains don’t seem to merit a whole lot of compassion and sympathy. They’re certainly getting all the coverage.

But is it the coverage they really want? 

So yeah, they have to pay a new surtax. I get that nobody likes new taxes.

However, in comparison, I look at those hurting from the housing affordability crisis — and my sympathies are immediately engaged. When contrasting the few wealthy homeowners with the hardworking, struggling — and anxious — young people I hang around with on occasion, I too wonder about our priorities and our hearts.

Mr. Mason doesn’t say it directly, but it seems that much of his thinking and subsequent anger is directed towards our media.

Housing issues, for all their actual complexities, seems to boil down to a quick, lazy shot of a protest placard and some angry faces. The situation cries out for more perspective than that; there are real people, lots of them, feeling real pain. Whereas the phony pain — the rage and entitlement — is hard to condone.

But at present, we have only Mr. Mason as perspective’s voluble champion.

Another week, another protest rally held by multimillionaires on the west side of Vancouver who are upset they are going to have to pay a 0.2-per-cent property surtax on that portion of their home assessed at over $3-million.

For many, it may cost a whole $1,500. I’m sure some of you reading this are now shaking in rage, too. Not in sympathy, but in anger at their pettiness. Even with the small increase, these outraged residents will be paying far less in property taxes than homeowners in major cities across the country. . .

Benjamin Tal, an economist at CIBC, sounded the alarm a couple of years ago when it comes to the retirement prospects for millennials. He said, given the trend toward lower savings rates and reduced private pension coverage, they face as much as a 30 per cent drop in their standard of living upon retirement.

But, hey, let’s not worry about them. They’ll figure it out, I’m sure. Let’s turn our attention to the homeowners in Vancouver whose $3-million-plus abodes face a minor tax hike. Although they can defer it until after they sell, many don’t want to. So, let’s everyone get together and figure out how we can help these poor, poor multimillionaires.

Here’s the fallout that has descended on Mr. Mason, and his bemused reaction.

Perhaps things will change as the October 20th civic election rolls into the battle-of-the-issues phase in Vancouver (and many other municipalities experiencing conflict), and we see just how the champions of density and rezoning are received by the voting public.

Comments

  1. Why doesn’t the sarcastic hypocritical Gary Mason howl about his employers – the obscenely rich multi-billionaire owners of the Grope and Flail – who wouldn’t even notice if million dollar bills were falling out of their back pockets. Not a peep.

  2. I particularly like Bill Maher’s piece on income inequality in America – talking about Sam Zell, who at the time owned 40,000 apartments – how this billionaire whined that he worked so hard. Pshaw. This concentration of wealth; this horrific greed, hurts us all.

  3. Will wonders never cease, posters defending the poor little rich guys and girls of the West Side. Like Mason, I am sick and tired of the moaning of the .2% who have it better than almost everyone else on the planet, let alone Greater Vancouver. Surely it has not escaped you they are likely the same group readers here love to excoriate as the “grey hairs” who show up to protest at every rezoning hearing that threatens their leafy enclaves with density?

    If you own a multimillion dollar asset you can afford a bit more in taxes.

  4. Say you bought a home 50 years ago, you worked hard at a job selling shoes for thirty years in order to pay off the mortgage, you are now retired on a Canada Pension, and you find yourself in a house worth millions of dollars and now people want to tax you for living in the house you have always lived in just because of its high appraised value? Come on people, what is fair about this and what is multi-millionaires about this?

    1. Then defer your taxes with a cut-rate loan offered by the province. And please don’t break out the violin for the poor heirs who will have to cough up a few thousand in back taxes when their multi-million dollar inheritance pay-off comes up.

    2. Your comment covers the problem. You can’t buy a house or townhouse on a shoe salesperson’s commission in Vancouver anymore, you might be able to swing a condo or a decent rental. It will take all your money. Wages have fallen drastically relative to the cost of living. So the government needs to get tax revenue from somewhere.

      Vancouver rates 18th in Canada for median household income. Years of right wing government policies have made the lower mainland a low wage, low salary region. Apparently the city of Vancouver pitch to Amazon for HQ2 included the dubious boast that we have the lowest salaries of any technology hub in North America.

      So if the economic base for income tax has been so thoroughly fried, where do you expect to get revenue for government services from? It’s political suicide to raise income taxes, so the government is turning to asset taxation in the obvious place. If you have another way to raise money, lets’s hear it.

      Yes it is the politics of envy, it’s a bit ham fisted, and not everyone will be able to defer the tax. The polls are telling the government that approval of this policy is running over 80%. How did we reach the situation where an eat the rich tax became so popular, well you can ask the working stiffs how well they’ve done since Expo 86, which was supposed to usher in widespread prosperity.

      1. It is morally repugnant to suggest that the politics of envy can be justified by a poll. This is a pathway of meanness towards one another and most un-Canadian. If government by the people for the people needs money for services to all the people, then it needs the participation of all the people and not the exploitation of a defenseless few.

        1. I am not justifying the policy on moral grounds, only that governments need to be aware of how popular their policies are because they have limited political capital to spend on unpopular measure, however well intentioned and statesmanlike they may be.

          As for the exploitation of the defenseless few, I would have thought that the previous administration’s policy of freezing the minimum wage for a decade, and welfare rates, and most shamefully the disability welfare rate is a much better fit for the definition of morally repugnant meanness.

        2. Oh lordy, the “defenceless few”? The creme de la creme are now the downtrodden. Mackenzie Heights hasn’t exactly been the purview of the ordinary joe for decades! Maybe they should go after their erstwhile friends and neighbours who were happy to sell to offshore millionaires and drive those properties over the $3 million mark.

  5. A house is wood, nails and speculative value, a home is an enduring place in the heart and mind. There is a difference between the two. There is a difference between those who are outside and those who are inside a particular place in the world.

    1. If this is truly the case then its no big deal to sell your home, pocket the millions, pay your taxes and pick up a condo for a million and live happily ever after.

  6. Well, one must wonder if this new surtax due to its discriminatory nature would survive a court challenge under section 15 (Equality of Rights) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    1. Not sure how having the rich pay one-fifth percent more for their mansions can be compared to segregation or hate crimes with a straight face.

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