MLA Doug Clovechok visited Golden last week to sit down and discuss some hot topics with local residents.
Residents were invited to schedule appointments to speak with the MLA, who arrived on Thursday to speak with members of the community.
The list of topics that affects Golden is extensive, and some of the hottest buttons included the new employment medical tax, the speculation tax, the opioid crisis, and wildlife management.
Businesses that pay employees’ medical services plan will also pay a payroll tax for the year before MSP is abolished in 2020. This causes some businesses to have to pay the MSP which they already cover for their employees, plus the tax for the first year.
Clovechok said this affects businesses in the Columbia Valley, including one restaurateur who may have to pay an extra $22,000 in that first year for his employee’s medical services because that business has a payroll of just over half of a million dollars.
“You can only charge so much for pizza, right? And then you’re going to have to start laying people off,” Clovechok said. “What the [NDP government] has done is created a new tax that’s really hurting small businesses in our riding and in our community.”
Other orders of business at the meetings last week included a number of concerns about the speculation tax, which is effective for the 2018 tax year. The tax targets foreign and domestic speculators in B.C., which are homeowners who have removed their units from B.C.’s long-term housing stock, meaning they are not owner-occupied for a qualifying long-term rental property.
“The speculation tax is really really creating an enormous amount of havoc,” Clovechok said, adding that he spoke with Mayor Ron Oszust about the issue.
There have been multiple incidents where projects have been put on hold, including one in Radium and another at a nearby ski hill.
“When you think of a $10 million project being cancelled, those are good family supporting jobs from electricians, from plumbers, pipe fitters, labourers, that’s money that’s not going into our families pockets anymore,” Clovechok said. “The confusion and the uncertainty that it’s creating in the Columbia River-Revelstoke region is having a really disastrous effect on people.”
The speculation tax aims to prevent foreign home buyers from flooding the Canadian markets, but it will also have a trickle down effect on B.C.’s residents who own a second home.
“Vancouver’s problem is not the problem in Golden,” Clovechok said. “What we’ve got is homeowners from Canadians, and other Canadians that are buying property and vacationing here.”
At this meetings, the MLA also met with doctors and other members of the community regarding the opioid crisis that is sweeping across the country.
“The problem is alive, and unfortunately very well here,” he said, adding that now he will go to Victoria and seek answers to why the problem isn’t being dealt with in this area. “My job now is to go back to Victoria, explain what’s going on here in our communities, and say ‘OK, here’s the resources that we need, and why aren’t we getting those resources.’”
The final major piece of information Clovechok discussed with his constituents was wildlife management. The province is working on a wildlife access plan that includes motorized and non motorized vehicle use, access, and building in the backcountry.
In order to create a good wildlife management access plan, Clovechok says a number of things need to be taken into consideration, including things associated with animals like predator control in wolves and bears, and controlling those numbers. The plan also must address habitat loss, and looking into access into backcountry areas.
“It’s a complicated and big issue,” he said. “It’s important because we hunt out here, we recreate, we berry pick, we bird watch, we do all those things, and we have to find a way to protect what we’ve got, and find a balance between what we need to develop and what we don’t need to develop.”
Clovechok regularly travels the Columbia Valley to meet with residents in the area to hear their concerns, when he’s not in legislature. He said enjoys meeting with people to hear the concerns everyone has on a local level.