Chamber of Commerce AGM backs wineries, eyes Airbnb, B.C. real estate

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VANCOUVER - British Columbia's business leaders have adopted a list of policies they want addressed by government including more equitable taxation for wineries and Airbnb-style rentals and protection for old-growth forests.

The resolutions are among those approved this week by delegates from 125 chambers and boards attending the BC Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Kelowna.

Chamber interim CEO Maureen Kirkbride says delegates want a break for B.C. wineries, noting the operations are mainly agricultural but are taxed at the light industry rate rather than the much lower farm rate.

She says it's also vital to tax the rapidly growing sharing economy, such as Airbnb, in order to level the playing field for all tourism-related businesses.

Delegates also asked for increased protection of old-growth forests in areas where the giant trees can have a greater economic value for communities if they are left standing for the next generation.

In all, 55 policies are up for adoption, and Kirkbride says the volatile real estate market has drawn its share of attention as delegates call for collection and analysis of citizenship and residency data on all B.C. real estate.

"We need to bring facts and data to the heated debates that currently surround (the) market," says Kirkbride.

She's optimistic the provincial government's recent move to collect that information from real estate transactions is a step in the right direction, but says the Chamber worries the data won't come quickly enough.

"Given the impact that B.C.'s high real estate costs have on British Columbians and B.C. businesses, we're pushing for a full study of ownership data so that we're all working from a basis of facts as we look for solutions."


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