No matter your political stripes, I think we can all agree that the recent governmental fighting between British Columbia and Alberta has been unseemly. What our politicians would do well to realize is that this has a tangible impact on the ground. There are also many people who have friends and family on both sides of the BC/Alberta border.
Now, before I go further, full disclosure – even though I have lived in Kelowna for a good number of years now (and love it) and my family has made BC home, I do have a dog in this fight, as I was born and raised in Edmonton and I remain close to the province and the many friends and family who still live in Alberta. However, I don’t think that alters the validity of what I have to say in this article.
One thing that has irked me recently is how soon everyone forgets! I remember when I first moved to Kelowna, not long after the most significant economic downturn in modern times, and practically everyone seemed to be crying out for the “red plates” to come back and spend their money here. Once things picked up again and Albertan tourism dollars did return, I even remember reading an article that celebrated the return of the red plates to Kelowna!
When I first moved here, it seemed to me that nearly everyone was struggling. I put an ad out for a reception position and received over 500 resumes – seriously, my inbox blew up. Things are better now, and some seem to have developed a “we don’t need the Albertans” mentality – especially if you listen to some of the arguments for the NDP government’s Speculation Tax. However, I disagree.
Like it or not, to some degree, every job in this city is reliant on our tourism industry. It is one of the main economic drivers for our region. If we had no visitors, our local economy would fall apart. Some of our visitors have means and decide they would like to buy a summer residence in our community. They should not be punished for this. What would help Kelowna the most is more housing supply!
In addition, many of the amenities, restaurants, and stores that Kelowna enjoys are thanks, at least in part, to our out of town guests. The amount they spend when they’re visiting, typically during the warmer months of the year, can help our local small businesses survive the leaner, colder months.
Of course, this, in turn, is good for the locals who own and work at these establishments. Those folks spend their money in our local community as well, so it has a knock-on effect. In other words, our guests are a big boon to our local economy. Many of our recreation, restaurant, and retail spots could not survive on local dollars alone.
Moreover, did you know that those who own a non-primary residence in BC already pay more tax? As someone whose primary residence is in BC, I’m eligible for a homeowners’ tax credit. Of course, those from Alberta (and elsewhere) who purchase vacation homes here are not. In addition, let’s keep in mind that they only use our roads, infrastructure, and tax-funded services 10% of the time at most. They’re already paying their share and contributing to the health of our economy!
We should be welcoming to our guests, and appreciating that they want to spend their hard-earned dollars here, not projecting an image that suggests we would like to turn our back on them or blame them for all of our challenges.
Kelowna is a great place to live and as such, there’s a lot of demand for property here. I do sympathize with those who are looking to get onto the property ladder and are finding it difficult, but I don’t think punishing our neighbours is going to help. I’ll say it again, the best solution would be to prioritize building more dwellings.
If you’re considering buying, selling or investing in Kelowna real estate, I hope you will contact my brokerage, Walker Real Estate. You can reach our office at 250-764-4344.