BC government halts tax plan

OWNERS of higher priced homes in Vancouver gave a collective sigh of relief after the provincial government announced it would revoke a controversial property tax aimed at them.

The announcement came only hours before Vancouver Mayor Gordon Campbell addressed a boisterous crowd of more than 4,000 taxpayers gathered to oppose the huge surtax on homes worth more than C$500,000 (about HK$3 million).

The tax would have been assessed on a sliding scale ranging from $5 per $1,000 of value between $500,000 and $700,000 to $15 per $1,000 of value above $900,000.

The result would have been tax increases of between 30 per cent and, in some cases, as much as 200 per cent.

Leaders from the province will make an official visit to Hongkong this month to encourage Hongkong investment in Canada, and local business groups and city officials agree that a clear message has been sent to the territory.

''There would be every indication that the government is trying to find a way to redistribute wealth - not just income but wealth,'' said Hongkong Bank of Canada vice-president Mr David Bond.

Mayor Campbell echoed those concerns, adding that the province's initial policy reflected ''the politics of jealousy''.

The cancelled luxury home surtax will result in a shortfall of more than HK$200 million in revenue for the government this year, an amount Mayor Campbell suggested could almost be reclaimed if the province were to cancel its bid to invest in an expansionof Vancouver's existing horse racing track.

The British Columbia Racing Commission is currently presiding over two applications to build a new track - one from the provincial government and the other from a group of investors led by New World chairman Mr Cheng Yu-tung, who wants to develop the track on a new site about 20 kilometres from the city.