Government of British Columbia

Government of British Columbia

April 24, 2007 17:16 ET

Government of British Columbia; BC Assessment: New Governance, Certainty and Investment

VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - April 24, 2007) -


For Immediate Release


April 24, 2007

Ministry of Small Business and Revenue


New approaches to assessing strata hotel units, major ski hills and major ports will strengthen certainty, equity and fairness and promote resort growth and tourism, Rick Thorpe, Minister of Small Business and Revenue and Minister responsible for Regulatory Reform, said today as he introduced related changes to assessment legislation.

"These changes flow from a comprehensive review of BC Assessment and extensive consultation with interested parties across British Columbia," said Thorpe. "The new assessment approaches reflect our commitment to greater fairness and equity for owners and operators of a variety of properties. They also support expanded container traffic - a goal of government's Pacific Gateway initiative - and hotel, resort and ski-hill expansion."

Balancing the interests of strata hotel unit owners and local governments, a new classification approach, effective for 2008, will ensure strata hotel unit assessments reflect actual occupancy. This is consistent with the British Columbia Supreme Court's ruling, in the Legends decision, that each unit in a strata commercial accommodation complex must be classified based on individual use. Currently, many strata hotels in Class 6 are used for both residential and business purposes, but classified and taxed entirely at the higher, business rate.

"Our approach is based on use and taxpayer fairness - and it was important to find a solution as we look to the future," said Thorpe. "Today, a majority of new tourism and resort properties are stratas, and providing certainty on how they are assessed will support growth in our all-season resort capacity and our goal to double tourism by 2015."

"While this decision has taken time, the government has consulted, established principles and chosen the fairest option for existing strata owners," said Brian Cocks, managing director and owner of Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre in Parksville. "This is good news for existing Class 1 and Class 6 unit owners, and provides new stability that will encourage further strata hotel unit development."

"We were increasingly concerned about the potential for units to be pulled out of rental pools to avoid commercial taxation, which would limit supply for skiers visiting our hill," said Darcy Alexander, vice-president and general manager, Sun Peaks Resort. "Government has correctly recognized it must act now to secure the continuing supply of nightly rental public accommodation units that we will need to expand tourism through 2010 and beyond."

For ski-hill owners, beginning in 2008, a new formula will link the assessed value of 17 large and developing ski hills to their respective gross lift revenue. This will support investment in British Columbia's current and new, major ski hills. Eight months of consultation involving BC Assessment, government and ski-industry representatives preceded the change.

"We've worked with the industry to develop a stable, fair approach to assessment, creating certainty and new investments," said Thorpe.

"This valuation approach shows government wants to see tourism and ski hills grow and develop throughout British Columbia," said Jimmie Spencer, president and CEO, Canada West Ski Areas Association. "It's consistent with the discussions we had and our shared goal of promoting investment certainty for existing, expanding and new ski resorts."

For operators of major ports and the municipalities in which they operate, the introduction of a new property assessment approach will ensure fairness and certainty, in turn supporting ports' competitiveness. The formula bases port assessments on actual land leases and includes a freeze on base assessments, with annual, indexed increases. BC Assessment has finalized the assessment roll for the current year using the new formula.

"The new assessment formula reflects a British Columbia Supreme Court decision on how ports should be valued, as well as an in-depth process we undertook with affected port operators and authorities, BC Assessment and the Ministry of Finance," said Thorpe.

"The property assessment formula ensures confidence and predictability for both port operators and local governments," said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president - policy with the Business Council of British Columbia. "It strengthens the economic competitiveness of British Columbia ports, which is necessary for the province to enjoy the economic benefits of the growing Asia-Pacific container traffic and the cruise-ship industry."

"Our industry is planning projects worth over $2 billion in the next decade, and the new assessment formula for ports assists in providing the stability and confidence necessary to support these investments," said Brad Eshleman, president of the British Columbia Wharf Operators Association. "In the face of escalating assessments in recent years, it sends a message to the international maritime industry that government supports B.C.'s Pacific Gateway and growing Asia-Pacific trade."

Thorpe also introduced changes to give BC Assessment a modern corporate structure and strengthen its customer service and accountability to the public. The Crown corporation will have greater ability to respond to taxpayers and emerging assessment issues, while retaining its operational and administrative independence from government. It will continue to provide independent, uniform and efficient property assessments across British Columbia.

"BC Assessment has a proud history and is confident it is operating in a manner consistent with good corporate governance," said Lillian White, chair of the board of directors. "The board does recognize the previous legislative framework was not consistent with modern governance practices. These changes and clarified roles will further support the organization to successfully meet its legislated mandate while continuing to provide excellent customer service to property owners and other clients."

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