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Province doesn't have to wait on feds: NDP

By Eric MacKenzie

BC NDP MLA David Eby.
ERIC MACKENZIE, 24 HOURS

BC NDP MLA David Eby. ERIC MACKENZIE, 24 HOURS

Following a weekend newspaper report that suggested widespread practice of tax dodging within Metro Vancouver’s real estate market — and an alleged unwillingness by authorities to pursue complaints — B.C.’s finance minister said he’ll urge his federal counterpart to “diligently enforce the law.”

Meanwhile, the opposition housing critic said Sunday the province is simply dragging its heels by asking the feds to take action.

A Globe and Mail report published Saturday quoted multiple area accountants who say they regularly see clients with questionable real estate transactions and hidden foreign income. It also included comments from whistleblowers who suggested law enforcement and the Canada Revenue Agency weren’t interested in investigating.

In response, a statement from Finance Minister Mike de Jong said measures such as the recently introduced, additional 15% property transfer tax that applies to foreign buyers and citizenship disclosure on property purchases “are intended to address a number of the issues raised” in the Globe story.

“Like all taxpayers, I am concerned about allegations that some are not paying their share of taxes. For Canadians to have confidence in the tax system, the CRA must diligently enforce the law,” said de Jong. “I have and will continue to communicate this expectation to Finance Minister (Bill) Morneau and the federal government.”

But the NDP’s David Eby said de Jong’s statement was the “closest thing” he’s seen from the province in terms of pressuring Ottawa for a crackdown.

“I’m really worried that the province will not take any action unless the federal government does first, and there’s absolutely no rule, requirement or constitutional limit on the ability of the province to chase down tax evasion, fraud and money laundering,” said Eby.

“If we continue to wait for the federal government to act, I believe that will be the equivalent of doing nothing.”

Eby read from a list of recent “red flags” related to tax evasion, fraud or money laundering within Vancouver real estate, which included B.C.’s Auditor General reporting an “acute” shortage of auditors. Hiring additional auditors and establishing a task force to investigate tax fraud were among “practical things” Eby said the province could pursue.