Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Times Colonist: Strata owners to launch petition against HST

Strata owners to launch petition against HST

Group fears condo owners will be hit harder when tax starts July 1

Another arrow has been added to the quiver of those fighting the harmonized sales tax, as a group of strata owners have come together to launch a petition against the tax.

With the help of Lana Popham, the NDP MLA for Saanich South, Harvey and Barb Freedman have launched an online petition ( and will hold a meeting tomorrow night to spur other strata owners to action.

Harvey Freedman is encouraging other owners to join the Fight HST campaign led by former premier Bill Vander Zalm, who is attempting to kill the tax via an initiative petition. Freedman said the meeting will focus on explaining that strata owners are going to be hit harder than single-family homeowners when the 12 per cent HST is introduced July 1.

Freedman estimates owners in his building "can expect to pay an additional $280 per annum, all of it due to increased provincial taxation."

He noted strata owners will have to pay more in maintenance fees because of the tax and have to conduct audits and do depreciation studies, which will be subject to the HST.

"This cruel tax is inflationary and will hit everyone in B.C.," he said. "There's a harder hit to condo owners because of the additional services they are obliged to have by law."

But Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association, said it's far too early to say with any certainty what impact the HST will have on strata owners.

"It is so variable, some strata corporations will see zero impact and some will see an impact as high as three to four per cent, and some [large mixed-use strata buildings] which charge HST on fees will be able to claim and get rebates so they will [come out ahead]," he said.

Gioventu said as a result it's impossible to put a dollar figure on the impact of the HST on the average strata owner. But he was adamant it would be well below $280 a year.

"A strata corporation would have to have 100 per cent of their budget to be labour-related in order to feel the maximum seven per cent impact of the HST on fees," he said. "Worst-case scenario most corporations are at 20 per cent [of their fees for] labour. In the maximum case I expect the scenario might be a 3.5 per cent increase."

Gioventu also pointed out depreciation reports and audits are not yet required.

"They are a possible regulatory requirement the government may bring in, but it won't bring them in until a public consultation process takes place over the next year," he said, noting even then there's no guarantee those studies will be subject to HST.

Tony Davis, president of the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, said the tax has not been top of mind within the association though they are concerned about its impact.

"We agree it will have an effect on strata owners, particularly to their maintenance fees and if they have management companies that will also increase, but it's a bigger issue than just strata owners. It will affect everybody," he said.

Popham, who will present the online petition to the legislature, said while the increase in costs to strata owners may not be a lot annually, it does add to the financial burden.

"It's another added cost on top of all the other added costs HST will have on daily living," she said, noting it will have a significant impact on those people living on fixed incomes and younger people. "All these things add up."

Tomorrow night's information meeting for strata owners is set for 6:30 p.m. at 3962 Cedar Hill Rd.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A life lived for others, devalued on your behalf

Please take a moment to read this absolutely heartbreaking piece from Saturday's Times Colonist. When the author closes with "Now please act," I encourage you to take a moment and write your MLA and tell them our seniors deserve better.

Thank you for your continued support,


A life lived for others, devalued on your behalf

Because of cutbacks, man will go into a care home, at higher cost

By Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe, Special to Times ColonistFebruary 13, 2010

Meet John Moelaert. I have his permission to tell you of the life he has led and where life has led him. I am hoping you will be as appalled and outraged as I am at the thoughtless and heartless decisions that have recently been inflicted on this vulnerable man -- on your behalf.
Born in Holland in 1930, John escaped the chaotic aftermath of war in Europe, making his way to Canada in 1951. He studied philosophy and creative writing and had a diverse journalistic career that inspired a deep caring for nature, a just society and conservation of the environment.
In his fruitful life, John participated vigorously in making our society a better place rather than enriching himself. He founded the Calgary branch of Amnesty International, the Kelowna branches of Peace Group, Tools for Peace and the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
In 1965, the Kamloops Wildlife Park was created under his leadership and it is now one of the largest conservation projects in Canada. In the 1970s, John worked with the United Church as uranium information co-ordinator and was appointed as an expert witness at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Uranium Mining.
Eight years ago, now living in Victoria, John was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder. Along with the worsening of movement and posture, general brain functioning can be compromised. John cannot think or speak as he once did, and faces the prospect of continued decline. It is a frightening time in his life.
With anxiety and depression accompanying and worsening the progression of his neurological symptoms, John was referred to me to see if I could assist.
John lives alone and frugally in his 37-year-old trailer with his cat Diego. I visit him there as he is often too ill to attend my office.
He lives with dignity, surrounded by reminders of his fruitful life. It would devastate him to lose his refuge and be away from his memories and his cat.
He survives on his pensions and his fixed expenses take up much of that modest sum. His eyesight is deteriorating, and spectacles are costly. Teeth break and rot, and dental bills pile up. John is a diligent and honest man who now spends his days worrying that the next major expense will leave him destitute. Expenses of a few hundred dollars are more than he can afford.
As he has grown feeble, this once-vibrant mind, which had galloped across social and philosophical issues with exuberance and insight, has now been reduced to worry over paying his bills.
I have been privileged to work with him as he continues to find hope and meaning in his life even as his body fails him, but it has been difficult to keep John going. Focusing on small mercies, accepting the changes in his body and mind and celebrating his lifetime of service have been the touchstones of our therapeutic strategy.
John has now had to cope with additional blows inflicted on him on your behalf as taxpayer, blows that have depleted his will to live. I have never seen him so devastated.
Consider what has been done to this gentle, selfless man. John has long been provided a Lifeline, a device that he wore around his neck. Patients with Parkinson's disease often fall and with Lifeline one button alerts a service that checks that he is safe.
John has been told that the service will no longer be provided unless he pays for it. He cannot, so he now lives with a new fear that he might not be able to get to his phone in a crisis.
John's ironic response to the yanking of his lifeline? He hopes the savings at the cost of his worrying about lying injured and helpless on the floor (a worry that I can see has worsened his mental health) goes to a good cause.
One loss was bad enough. Almost simultaneously, John was told that his meals would also no longer be delivered free. John faces additional expenses of $6 per day to eat the meals he has come to rely on in past years.
His sense of being abandoned in his old age by the society he served selflessly all his life is overwhelming. Despair has worsened his neurological symptoms.
I know: Times are tough and budgets have to be met. But set aside your compassion for a moment and consider the sheer financial stupidity of these decisions.
As a result of these decisions, I, as one of his caregivers, will have to push John into a care home far sooner than need be, leading to you, the taxpayer, paying much more for his daily expenses.
Does it take a genius to work out the difference between full-time care and $200 a month?
I accept the fact that for a bureaucrat, the name John Moelaert means nothing. Someone out there, up there, is making decisions behind closed doors. Can we not insist on an accounting for them?
I do not know how many people are out there in the same situation as John Moelaert. He is the one I know, and having known the man, the one I care deeply about.
Perhaps you know someone in his boat and you also care. If so, let your voice be heard; this letter is my appeal to you: call, e-mail, or write to those who represent you and insist that this inhumane treatment of our seniors must stop. Do not forget that these are decisions made on your behalf.
Thank you for reading this far. Now please act. We need to shame the decision-makers away from inflicting such suffering on John Moelaert and others like him.
Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe has practised psychiatry for 25 years in this province. Although primarily a forensic psychiatrist, he has a small non-forensic practice where he sees patients struggling to find acceptance and meaning in their lives when confronting losses and life-threatening illnesses.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Squeaky wheels get the grease: Update

Hi Everybody,

Hope you are all well. A few quick updates on the "No HST on BIKES in BC" campaign. For all the details, check out

The petition is still on a tear: over 3000 of you have now signed it!  Help me double or triple it in size before I present it to the Legislature in 20 days. Surely there are 10,000 cyclists in BC who know it’s nonsense to stick a new tax on cycling! Please ask your friends to check it out. The direct link to the petition is Email me if you want a hard copy of the petition.

Over 150 people have RSVP’d for the 12pm Wed March 3rd bike rally at the Legislature. That is fantastic! We’re working on a few surprises for the event: don’t miss out! You can RSVP at the facebook rally event page.  Please send an invite out through your network.

Cyclists around the province who can’t make it to Victoria on March 3 have spontaneously begun to organize their own rallies in support!

In Nanaimo, cyclists are meeting at the corner of Comox Road and Terminal Ave, on March 3, at 4pm for a ride and support rally. Their facebook event page is here.

In Vancouver, a number of people are even planning to ride over on mass, catching the 9am ferry. Sidney folks are planning to meet them on route and ride down to Victoria together. Their facebook event page is here.

There is still lots of time for you to organize your own event!

Keep in touch!


Lana Popham, MLA, Saanich South

Bike Rally at the Legislature!

Please join me! Check out for all the details.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Almost there! Help us save Madrona Farm!

Madrona Farm is such a jewel inside Saanich South. The importance of this farm, and ones like it, have always been a priority for myself and former MLA David Cubberley. David felt so strongly about saving Madrona Farm that he spearheaded a fundraising campaign last year asking people to donate their $100 carbon rebate cheques. He initiated this campaign with his own generous donation of $10,000.

This camapign was one of many community based initiatives that have been extreamely successful.

As of January 14, 2010, $1,413,000 have been raised, leaving $287,000 to raise by March 15,2010.

Thanks to the overwhelming support from TLC Members, concerned citizens, local businesses and community groups, all with a love for locally grown food, TLC is well on it’s way to seeing Madrona Farm protected forever.

But, there is still work to be done to save this community asset. Please join the hundreds of people who believe in protecting agriculture land for future generations by making your donation to help save Madrona Farm today.