With a week and a half to go before the Nanaimo by-election, Premier John Horgan stopped by Sheila Malcolmson’s campaign office Saturday to rally the troops while acknowledging how close the race is.

“The future of the government is resting on the success of our campaign here in Nanaimo and that’s why we’re working so hard,” said Horgan.

Horgan adds he’s not worried about the NDP’s speculation tax hurting his party’s chance at re-election.

Nanaimo is one of the areas targeted by the 0.5 per cent tax (along with the Lower Mainland, Kelowna and Greater Victoria) and it could cost some Nanaimo homeowners significantly more money.

“I don’t think (it will hurt the NDP), I think that less than 1 per cent of the population is affected by the speculation tax,” said Horgan. “We have a housing crisis here in British Columbia, again ignored by the B.C. liberals and we’re taking steps to address that.”

“The idea of taxing people to motivate them to rent is completely absurd,” said Michael Simard who lives in Nanoose Bay and recently purchased a townhouse in Nanaimo.

He might retire to the townhouse but he has no firm plans yet and as a former landlord, doesn’t want to rent it out. He says he understands there’s a housing crisis and what the intention of the tax is but;

“You can’t force me to rent by holding a gun to my head and saying if you don’t we’re going to almost double your property tax by charging you another $3,000 every single year. This is just ridiculous,” he said.

He thinks the tax could have The reverse effect on vacancy rates.

“The vacancy rate, in my opinion, is going to go lower because you’re simply scaring people from wanting to do these things in the first place,” said Simard.

“This individual you’re talking about, if he wants to live in Nanaimo he should move to Nanaimo. If he wants to avoid the speculation tax he can rent out his home to someone and we can reduce the vacancy rate to make sure that people have a place to live here in town,” replied Horgan.

The by-election is January 30.

Dean Stoltz