NDP demand probe of real estate agent's knowledge of B.C. foreign property tax

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's New Democrat housing critic is calling for an investigation into whether a prominent Vancouver real estate agent and B.C. Liberal government insider had advance knowledge of a controversial new tax on foreign property buyers.

David Eby has written B.C. Premier Christy Clark asking what information Bob Rennie had before the government passed the 15 per cent property transfer tax on foreign nationals.

His questions come after the Globe and Mail published an article saying Rennie said he knew about three weeks ago that an additional tax was coming. Rennie chairs the B.C. Liberal's fundraising committee and is also a party donor.

Eby's letter asks Clark when Rennie received formal notice of the new tax, who told him and whether he or any of his clients acted on any information they may have received.

``These are all serious questions,'' Eby told reporters on Tuesday at a news conference at his constituency office.

``This information is very valuable to someone in the position of Mr. Rennie as a major industry player, as probably one of the most uniquely best-positioned to take advantage of this information.''

Eby said the auditor general or conflict commissioner could investigate, or an external party could be appointed. He said parliamentary tradition dictates the finance minister take responsibility for leaks about taxation policy, and the premier must be held accountable as well.
Rennie issued a statement after the news conference: ``I did not have or was given any advance knowledge on the Foreign Buyer tax.''
A spokesman for the premier also said in an email that any assertion that Rennie was given advance warning of the tax is completely untrue.

Rennie has since told The Globe that he was making an educated guess about the tax, and that he is willing to step down as the chief fundraiser for the B.C. Liberals if asked to by the party.

The tax that was legislated by B.C.'s Liberal government last week and supported by the Opposition NDP will apply to foreigners purchasing residential property in Metro Vancouver. It was billed as a measure to improve housing affordability in a red-hot housing market.

The Canadian Press

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