Press Pass: De Jong unmoved by real-estate tax jitters

PRESIDENTIAL MINISTER — Finance Minister Mike de Jong wasn’t exactly oozing sympathy for people whose real estate deals go sideways because of the foreign buyers tax he introduced in the legislature last week.

Asked about pre-sold condos where foreign buyers might be skittish about closing such deals in Metro Vancouver now that there’s a new tax, he said that if a foreign national confronted by the new 15 per cent tax “decides that they do not wish to pay that and chooses to assign their rights under that contract to a British Columbian, a permanent resident, a Canadian citizen, then I suppose the argument can be made … mission accomplished…”

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GLOWING HEARTS — Team Canada has 313 athletes at the Rio Olympics and 68 of them list hometowns in B.C. But wait. Sports Minister Peter Fassbender wanted to max out B.C.’s contribution, so he came up with a new metric. No fewer than 142 of them “have connections to B.C.”

All of a sudden, almost half the team has some involvement with B.C.

“That’s 45 per cent of the total Canadian team, and I think we in B.C. can be proud of their efforts …”

There was no word on what “connections” means, but it likely includes everything from “trains here” or “competed here” to “visited Vancouver once” or “has a grandmother living here.”

MEDALLING MINISTER — Fassbender need look no further than his government’s front bench for links to Rio.

Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell, who has won five medals — four of them gold — at previous Paralympics is awaiting word on whether she will again represent Canada.

“I am cautiously optimistic … and continue to train to reach the top of the podium in 44 days or so,” she said at the legislature.

The Parksville-Qualicum MLA won gold in wheelchair basketball at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney before switching to wheelchair racing, winning the 100- and 200-metre races in record times at Beijing in 2008. She won gold and silver four years later in London.

The Canadian Paralympic Committee notes on its website that she is the only Canadian woman to win gold in two summer sports.

CHOP-O-MATIC QUESTIONS — NDP MLA Lana Popham rapped Health Minister Terry Lake for allowing the Vanderhoof hospital to serve patients fruit cups from China. Lake praised B.C. agriculture to the skies and said health authorities buy locally whenever possible.

That wasn’t good enough for Popham. “The minister can dice it, chop it, slice it, dehydrate it, freeze it or blend it any way he wants, but it won’t make plastic fruit cups from China any more appetizing in the B.C. hospital system.”

DO THE NUMBERS — NDP MLA David Eby lauded some young math wizards from his riding who made it to the Canadian team in an international math Olympiad.

“I’m thrilled to share with this House that 33.3333 per cent of Canada’s top six math students call my constituency home.” (That would be two.)

One of them noted after the competition that the “third algebra question could be solved by polynomial factoring, even though the question appeared convoluted at first glance.”

Eby said: “I couldn’t agree more.”

HAIL CAESAR — “What is it about Liberals and taxes and the month of July?” NDP MLA Mike Farnworth wondered. The foreign buyers tax was introduced just two days past the seventh anniversary of the announcement of the harmonized sales tax. “And we know how that ended,” he said.

“Someone once said, ‘Beware of the ides of March,’ but when it comes to the B.C. Liberals, all I can say is: ‘Beware of the taxes of July.’ ”

Nonetheless, he and the rest of the Opposition caucus voted for it.

— With files from Les Leyne and Lindsay Kines

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