Apr 18

Three men walked into a bar.

One of them was me, settling into the local watering hole on Monday night to take in the Leafs’ playoff game with the Boston Bruins.  The Leafs prevailed after a close battle crowned by a stupendous save by Frederik Andersen in the dying minutes – lucky probably, but better to be lucky than good, arguably.

We headed to the men’s room to off-load some beery residue before catching an Uber ride home.  Confronted with five vacant urinals, we hastily occupied spaces one, three, and five in practiced obedience to the sacred “Urinal Spacing Rule” - some things are hard-wired for men, baked into our genetic code.

The Rule may have evolved in deference to man’s innate hankering for “personal space”, or to accommodate the masculine discomfort with being too close to another dude’s “junk”.  But the likeliest explanation resides in the “splatter” theory, a concept neatly laid out in the ancient Declaration of Manhood: “We hold this truth to be self-evident, that a man with a rifle can hit a deer at 400 yards but he cannot hit an enormous porcelain bowl with a stream of urine at 18 inches.” Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 18

Yesterday’s op-ed piece by Josh Gordon in the Vancouver Sun ("Speculation tax is essential for housing affordability") should be shredded and composted across the province as potent fertilizer to the spring growing season, so pure is the horse manure contained therein.  Bumper crops would be assured.

Mr. Gordon, assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University, attempts a robust defense of the tax, a wrong-headed initiative germinated in the first place by fellow luminaries at the University of B.C.  It makes one wonder whether the professors have been indulging overmuch in that famous B.C. bud. A short vacation from academic haze to the real world is overdue, I think.

The initial concerns and problems with the tax “have now been addressed”, claims Mr. Gordon, before he goes on to completely ignore the disproportionate effect of the speculation levy on fellow Canadians.  Out-of-province Canadians with vacation homes in B.C. will be still be on the hook for a one percent annual levy on the assessed value of their property:  for a $500,000 home, that means an extra five grand in taxes, each year, every year.

With fully 81% of British Columbians in support of the speculation tax it would seem to be a smash home-run as policy, a sure-fire political winner.

Maybe.  But just because something seems initially “popular” doesn’t make it right, or even popular.

It’s all in the framing, and the question put to British Columbians frames the tax, wrongly, as a “speculation” tax.  As B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Weaver rightly pointed out in the legislature:

“A speculator is someone who buys a property solely to flip it. A speculator is someone who parks offshore money in our real estate, hoping to protect themselves from the turmoil in global markets. A speculator is someone who uses bare trusts to avoid paying property transfer taxes, thereby allowing multiple sales and resales with no change in title.A speculator is not someone who pays taxes here and owns a vacation cottage. These folk are not trying to capitalize on our out-of-control housing market.” Read the rest of this entry »