@DouglasTodd Three reasons why rents suddenly dropped in Metro Vancouver

Very good article by Todd regarding the COVID-19 immigration related impacts on rental rates:

The advertised rent for a two-bedroom apartment has plunged by 15 per cent in the city of Vancouver, one of the biggest drops in Canada, as COVID-19 makes its bewildering way through the economy.

Many of the more than 800,000 tenants across Metro Vancouver were riveted when Rental.ca posted the city’s rent-price declines last week. The average rent demanded for a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Vancouver dropped by almost $450, to $2,478 a month.

But why, exactly, have Vancouver and Toronto and their suburbs been slammed?

“A lack of immigration, a decline in international students, a decline in short-term contract employment, and continued affordability concerns because of job losses are to blame,” said Ben Myers, president of Bullpen Research, an affiliate of Rental.ca, in a commentary.

All of which makes sense. But it needs unpacking.

Vancouver and Toronto are subject to some of the same COVID-19 forces — tremendous job loss and swelling household debt — that weakened countless rental markets in the world because of lockdown.

But Metro Vancouver and Toronto also contain some of the world’s highest proportions of foreign-born residents — immigrants and especially temporary residents, such as international students and guest workers. Most are young. And most rent.

That makes these two large Canadian metropolises more vulnerable to global migration patterns and to Canada’s clampdown on its international border, which has abruptly cut inbound flows of people to a trickle.

That lead Paul Danison, another analyst for Rental.ca, to go so far as to imagine the tenants of Vancouver and Toronto possibly being dug out of the hole they have found themselves trapped in: Rental-vacancy rates of less than one per cent.

“Imagine if you can, Toronto and Vancouver with a healthy three per cent vacancy rate, and rents falling by the end of the year rather than rising. A few months ago, that would have been laughable,” said Danison.

“But because of COVID-19, Canada will have less immigration, fewer international students and, with the border closed, not nearly as many seasonal and part-time workers. All typically are renters.”

Several factors are at play.

Tighter borders means landlords who once offered costly short-term rentals, like those on Airbnb, have been hammered in attractive cities like Vancouver, whose economies rely more than most on travellers.

Short-term rental providers have been moving their often-stylish apartments to the long-term rental market, which has been increasing supply, offering tenants more choices.

Rohana Rezel, a housing advocate and past candidate for Vancouver city council, is part of a group monitoring Craigslist and other real-estate forums. They’ve discovered short-term rentals are “collapsing” and hundreds of units are now switching to long-term rentals.

“People offering their places for rent on Craigslist are now blatantly saying it used to be an Airbnb. They’re boasting it was rated five stars,” says Rezel, who adds that many such landlords started off charging outlandish long-term rents, which they were forced to slash.

As in many cities around the world, many owners in Vancouver and Toronto are also feeling pressure to somehow off-load their homes, either because they have lost wages or are going into deeper debt. But they’re in a bind, because it’s no longer a house-seller’s market.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Moody’s and other analysts are predicting double-digit house price declines over the next year or two. So some would-be sellers are trying to wait out the downturn by renting their places, thus also increasing supply.

Thirdly, and perhaps most distinctly for a desirable cosmopolitan city like Vancouver, there are strong indications many of the region’s young temporary residents (foreign- and Canadian-born) have climbed on planes and headed home, often to live with their parents.

That means a hefty drop in demand for rental suites.

A CMHC analyst, Andrew Scott, has found an astonishing 46 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents between the ages of 18 and 44, the group most likely to rent, have been non-permanent migrants — a ratio almost unheard of in other parts of the world.

Until recently, at least 100,000 international students have been living and working in Metro Vancouver, plus another 50,000 so-called “international mobility” employees and temporary foreign workers.

“Many temporary residents just packed up and left,” says Rezel, a high-tech professional who first came to Canada from Sri Lanka as a graduate student.

Like me, when Rezel visits the city’s restaurants, pubs and cafés, he says he often asks friendly servers and others about themselves. Four times out of five such hospitality staff invariably answer that they are in Canada on study or work visas.

As colleges and universities began in March to offer their courses only on the internet and most service jobs disappeared overnight, a large portion of these intrepid young people were compelled to leave behind the country and their rental apartments. Rezel’s Japan-born wife, who is involved in her expatriate community in Vancouver, said that’s what happened in her circle, too.

Who knows when or if most of these temporary residents will return?

All of which goes to suggest Metro Vancouver’s suddenly lower rental rates are likely to remain so for at least the medium term.

Source: Douglas Todd: Three reasons why rents suddenly dropped in Metro Vancouver

Douglas Todd: SFU prof spotlighted foreign ownership in Vancouver 30 years ago

A reminder of how long the issue has persisted and how the political level missed the impact:

“I’ve always had a problem with the media not following the money.”

That’s from Simon Fraser University professor emeritus Donald Gutstein, who more than 30 years ago shone a spotlight on how foreign capital was flooding into Vancouver’s real estate market.

In the late 1980s, Gutstein began poring through Metro Vancouver’s land title office and discovered a tremendous volume of capital was flowing out of increasingly wealthy Asia into B.C. real estate.

The river of money was partly a consequence of Vancouver’s Expo 86, which featured the pavilions of 54 nations and sparked boasts about the city becoming “world class.” That seemed to inspire a host of politicians to head off on “trade missions” around the world to woo investment, which, alas, mostly went into Canadian real estate.

“The investors were just doing what they were invited to do,” says Gutstein, now 81. He emphasizes that the foreign-trade-mission-crazed politicians of recent decades came from every stripe — federal Conservative and Liberal and provincial Social Credit, NDP and Liberal.

Politicians welcomed foreign capital because it “is an easy way to boost your economic numbers,” Gutstein says. But the trouble is most of the money just pumped up the cost of real estate, especially when much of it at the time was funnelled into existing buildings.

After writing Vancouver Inc. in the 1970s to reveal the power developers have over politicians, Gutstein explained the globalization phenomenon in 1990 in The New Landlords: Asian Investment in Canadian Real Estate. It was preceded by a 1998 feature in Vancouver Magazine headlined ‘Hong Kong Money.’

Both grew out of Gutstein’s exhaustive work revealing how financiers like Stanley Ho, David Lam, Charles Tang, S.H. Sung, Geoffrey Lau and others had been buying up B.C. and Canadian towers and houses.

Gutstein discovered Social Credit cabinet minister Grace McCarthy had sold the former Expo 86 lands, which made up one sixth of downtown Vancouver, to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing for what was even then an astonishingly cheap sum, $8 per buildable square foot. Gutstein also uncovered 20 major Greater Vancouver hotels had been sold in one year, and 15 involved offshore, mainly Asian money.

A specialist in teaching documentary research methods in SFU’s communications department, Gutstein says he was never accused of being “xenophobic.”

Perhaps it was because “I was just following the money to see what happens.” A few journalists, such as The Vancouver Sun’s Elizabeth Godley and the late CBC Radio talk-show host Peter Gzowski, covered The New Landlords. Godley’s piece explained Gutstein’s conviction it would have been far better if offshore investors had instead supported Canada’s manufacturing industries, which would have provided jobs and social stability.

Even though Gutstein escaped personal attack for his research, he now realizes some journalists in the 1990s who tried to cover how Hong Kong, Singapore, Chinese, Japanese and Malaysian capital was pouring into Canadian real estate were accused of being “racist” by developers and their supporters. It induced reporters and editors to move onto other subjects.

Gutstein himself also shifted onto other social critiques in the mid-1990s, after noticing a lack of mainstream interest in the real-estate fallout from Expo 86. He’s since written books about corporate propaganda, Stephen Harper and how the internet undermines democracy.

He’s never, unlike many “progressive” people today, been particularly focused on identity politics, which can emphasize the interests of ethnic, sexual and gender groups over the common good. “I’ve always been more interested in politics and economics and who benefits from the decisions governments make.”

Gutstein acknowledges some disappointment his findings of three decades ago didn’t resonate more with media outlets and what people today call “influencers,” because he is convinced foreign capital was a key reason Metro Vancouver’s housing prices are now among the most unaffordable in the world.

He credits a former UBC business professor, Michael Goldberg, with explaining how a trans-Pacific family-based culture of wealth turned urban Canada into a global real estate market in the 1980s and beyond. “Whistler was already there, and so were parts of West Vancouver and the west side of Vancouver. Local people were not in that market anymore. It was being dominated by investors from all over the world, who already owned real estate,” he says.

“They would use their holdings to buy more real estate. And that put the price of real estate out of the reach of local people in Vancouver. Nowadays, the price of Vancouver real estate is not determined, by any stretch of the imagination, by people who live and work here. It’s determined by this global market, by people who might have property in France and Hong Kong and London.”

Philosophically, Gutstein worries about how capitalism and democracy can coexist. They won’t, he says, if politicians spend their energy trying to please rich people and big business while overriding the interests of the majority of citizens.

He believes the housing crises in Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria could have been forestalled by politicians if journalists and academics had consistently followed the impact of foreign capital — and not waited until a handful began doing so about six years ago, eventually prompting the B.C. NDP and others to act.

Gutstein has no trouble with B.C.’s speculation and vacancy tax, for instance, since it’s designed in part to restrain so-called “satellite” families who invest in property with wealth earned abroad, where it isn’t subject to Canadian income tax. “The money is not really making a financial contribution to the country, so it makes sense to capture the benefit (the buyers obtain) in a tax,” he says.

Though retired from teaching at SFU, Gutstein is still in the game. His most recent book is titled The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada.

To Gutstein, the climate-change issue central to The Big Stall may even be bigger than skyrocketing Canadian real-estate prices. But that doesn’t mean taking action on one front cancels out doing so on the other.

Asked three decades later if he might have been a prophet without honour in his own country in regard to The New Landlord’s warnings about the dangers of mass foreign investment in Canadian real estate, Gutstein modestly answers: “Possibly.”

Source: Douglas Todd: SFU prof spotlighted foreign ownership in Vancouver 30 years ago

House-hunting as an Asian immigrant in Vancouver means navigating racism

Account how some of the general narratives about Chinese and Chinese Canadians play out at the individual level. Although stating that her car is a Porsche (no shame, she works hard, and a good reporter) perhaps a detail that reduces empathy:

When my mother graduated from high school in Hong Kong in the 1970s, she and her friends did not have the luxury of going straight to college or spending a “gap year” travelling the world.

At age 18, she worked as a secretary all day and attended class in the evenings to earn a degree in business administration, while also studying English and shorthand.

She made 500 HKD a month, which was roughly equivalent to $80 Canadian at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that would still be less than $500 Canadian a month. My dad was working long hours, meanwhile, as a salesman for commission.

In my parents’ first home as a married couple, they lived in a flimsy shack on the rooftop of a high-rise building, which they jokingly referred to as their penthouse. It was better than when they bunked with their parents and siblings, with both families stuffed into 200-square-feet studios.

They saved fastidiously. My mom socked away half her salary each month and invested the money. Since she was constantly upgrading her skills at night, she also jumped jobs to double and triple her salary. By the time I was born, she had a fairly comfortable government job and my dad had moved up the ranks to general sales manager.

Yet they gave it all up to start over again in their early 30s. After selling their apartment, my parents moved to Canada, in hopes of giving their children a more secure future in a democratic country.

I’m now the same age they were when they settled in Vancouver. Even though I haven’t been quite as disciplined, because I followed their example of jumping jobs and working multiple gigs at once, I’ve saved enough and I’m looking for a home of my own.

Searching for a condo in Vancouver as an Asian immigrant is a fraught and emotional experience. Why? Because there is a class struggle centred around housing affordability happening in the Lower Mainland — and it’s led to outright racism, ageism, classism and xenophobia.

If you chat with any Asian person in Vancouver, they’re likely to say they’ve noticed an uptick in racism, of people who voice their assumptions that they are recent migrants with bucketloads of cash and are driving up the real estate prices for “locals” and “real Canadians.”

Earlier this year, a stranger confronted and raged at me that my Porsche had almost struck her. I was dumbfounded. I commute an hour to work on public transit every day. Other times, people have simply shouted: “Chink!” at me, as I walked down the street.

At an apartment pre-sale event in Burnaby, I saw a one-bedroom that cost less than $450,000, and I couldn’t help blurting out, “Wow, that’s pretty cheap!”

It was a very crowded exhibition hall and immediately, everyone around shot dagger eyes at me and one white lady made a furious sound that sounded like “Eeuarrrckk!” then hissed under her breath, “Go back to China, bitch.”

And that’s just what I get as a young person. My parents are both boomers and immigrants, and even though they are so law-abiding they wouldn’t jaywalk, let alone engage in seedy real-estate fraud, they represent the most popular scapegoats for soaring real-estate prices in this city.

At best, it’s an unhealthy “us” versus “them” dynamic — at worst, it’s bigotry.

“I would never sell to a ‘housewife’ from China,” someone wrote to me in response to my first house-hunting story. The insinuation was that these people are undeserving of homes in Vancouver.

It makes me sad to see valid frustration about rising unaffordability lead to ugly attitudes toward people who are eager to become Canadians. My first job as a teenager was working as an English tutor, where I was mostly employed by “astronaut families.” Usually, it is the father who stays and works in the home country, planning to make money and join his family later, while his wife and children move abroad. The astronaut mothers that I knew were devoted to their kids’ educations, hiring multiple tutors and music teachers in ardent hope of helping them build bright futures in a new land.

Source: House-hunting as an Asian immigrant in Vancouver means navigating racism

Protests sow division among Vancouverites whose roots are either in Hong Kong or Mainland China

Good reporting on ongoing tensions:

On a scorching Saturday afternoon, Vancent Zhu stood outside a SkyTrain station in Vancouver shouting slogans that condemn violent acts by Hong Kong anti-government protesters. He was facing off against a few hundred supporters of the Hong Kong protests. Among them, a few metres away, was one of his friends.

“Sad. That was exactly how I felt,” Mr. Zhu said, saying he and his friend hold totally different perspectives on Hong Kong’s biggest political crisis in years.

He compared himself and his friend to workers who built the Tower of Babel: “We were once cheering and laughing together, but now, we seem to be strangers.”

At the August protests, Mr. Zhu was joined by hundreds of demonstrators whose roots are mostly in Mainland China. They took to Vancouver streets four times, voicing support for Hong Kong police and denouncing violence during the protests.

“Love China, love Hong Kong; no secession, no violence,” they chanted. In between the rallying calls, they sang the Chinese national anthem, and many were waving a Chinese national flag.

A few meters away stood protesters that mostly have ties to the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. They held “Free Hong Kong” signs and shouted “Hong Kongers, add oil” – an expression to show encouragement – in Cantonese.

The massive protests that have wracked Hong Kong for months were prompted by a controversial extradition bill that has now been withdrawn. But the protests have shown few signs of abating. Demonstrators have added to their lists of demands, which include political reforms and an independent investigation of the police, whose use of violence in response to the protests has angered many.

The turmoil has spilled into major cities around the world that have ex-pat communities, including Vancouver, where the crisis has revealed tensions between newer immigrants from Mainland China and the longer-established Hong Kong immigrants.

Cantonese, the mother tongue of Hong Kongers and residents of several areas of southern China, used to be the dominant language in the Chinese-Canadian community. However, census data from 2016 showed the number of residents speaking Mandarin – the official language of Mainland China – at home in Canada has surpassed the number of those who speak Cantonese.

The same data show the number of Cantonese speakers is slightly higher than the number who speak Mandarin in the Vancouver area, but the gap narrowed significantly between 2011 and 2016.

The Hong Kong protests have opened up deep divisions between the two groups, prompting some Hong Kong Canadians to reject being identified as Chinese.

Jane Li, spokesperson of Vancouver Hong Kong Political Activists, a student-formed organization, said a hidden division between those from the Mainland and Hong Kongers has “erupted.”

“I feel unfortunate, but I am not surprised.”

The 19-year-old said the difference between the two groups lies in politics, but also culture.

“Languages we speak are different. … A lot of adults were brought up while Hong Kong was under the British regime, and they still separate themselves from the Chinese identity,” she said. “Also, in the previous 10 years, the political interference from China has caused a lot of discontent.”

Ms. Li said the divisions have been brought to Vancouver.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” formula, which expires in 2047. The agreement guarantees Hong Kong liberties not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and a free press.

For lots of Hong Kongers, the city’s core values – respect for the rule of law and democracy – align much more closely with those of the West than the authoritarian China.

Although Hong Kong protesters considered the proposed extradition bill a further indication of Beijing’s encroachment on the city, Mr. Zhu and many in his group believe Beijing and the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region did nothing wrong.

“You have the right to hold different opinions with the government, but please [protest] within the law. You cannot use violence to beat, intimidate those who do not agree with you.”

Mr. Zhu refuses to be labeled as pro-China: He said he believes people like him who are angry about the protests were actually showing support for the Asian financial hub.

“We also support Hong Kong. … But we don’t support violence,” said Mr. Zhu, stressing that striving for freedom and democracy by using violence is unacceptable.

The anti-government protests started with peaceful marches, but violent clashes between demonstrators and police have escalated in the past few weeks. Hong Kong police have used batons, tear gas and pepper pellets to push back crowds, while protesters have set street fires and hurled bricks and petrol bombs at officers.

“Violence clearly happens. … As long as there is violence, it’s wrong,” said Leo Ji, who attended a pro-China rally on the same August weekend in Toronto.

Members of the Chinese-Canadian community who are condemning the protests are convinced some of the Hong Kong demonstrators and their supporters want independence, although that is not among the demands. But anything that would harm the country’s sovereignty hits a nerve.

At the event in Toronto, Mr. Ji said he saw supporters of the protests holding a coat of arms that was used in colonial Hong Kong.

“To my knowledge, this is a behaviour of secession,” he said.

Ashely Yu, 22, who attended three pro-China rallies in Vancouver, pointed out the “Free Hong Kong” sign, an indication, she said, of a call for independence.

“Hong Kong is part of China,” Ms. Yu said several times.

Victor Ho, former editor of Sing Tao Daily in Canada, argued violence isn’t mainstream in the protests. He added pro-China supporters in Canada and elsewhere are largely influenced by Chinese propaganda that alters information about the Hong Kong movement to discredit it.

When the first massive peaceful protest broke out on June 9, it made international headlines, but Chinese state-backed media ignored it. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social-media platform that has about 200 million active users a day, content about the protests was censored and information on the June 9 protest didn’t appear at all.

But as clashes became more frequent, Chinese authorities described the movement as showing “signs of terrorism.” Pro-democracy leaders, including Joshua Wong and Martin Lee, a former member of the city’s legislative council, have been called the “saboteurs of Hong Kong” and “traitors.”

Fang Kecheng, assistant professor in the school of journalism and communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Chinese propaganda is intended to tell its consumers that the protesters’ demands and the ways they deliver them are unreasonable.

“Violent acts are decontextualized [by the Chinese propaganda] and the effect is very obvious, according to opinions online, on WeChat and Weibo. It provoked many Chinese people to oppose or even resent the Hong Kong protests,” Prof. Fang said.

Ms. Yu and Mr. Li acknowledged the main sources of their information about the Hong Kong protests are media outlets or social-media platforms in China. But Mr. Zhu, who said he has examined the issue through reporting from China, Hong Kong and Western countries, concluded the Western media are biased.

Chinese officials have denounced Western journalists, saying they purposely overlooked the violence.

Prof. Fang said the strong reaction from the pro-China camp is not only derived from a potent campaign by Beijing, but also reflects the fact that many overseas Mainlanders tend to link China’s interest to their own, especially when the country is becoming more powerful and influential.

China’s economic success was followed by a heightened sense of patriotism and nationalism. Nicholas Wang, one of the co-ordinators of the pro-China rallies in Vancouver, said attendees don’t uphold China’s Communist Party, but simply have a “patriotic heart.”

“China has become powerful, so people now dare to speak up,” he said.

Mr. Zhu called for Hong Kongers to drop their entrenched prejudice against China because it has been trying to improve itself. He stressed that he hopes peace and order can be restored soon.

But for Mr. Ho and other pro-democracy supporters, this fight cannot end.

“Now, it’s a battle of guarding [the democratic] values that Hong Kongers can’t afford to lose. Once they lose, they would become slaves,” he said.

Source: Protests sow division among Vancouverites whose roots are either in Hong Kong or Mainland China

Glavin: Beijing casts shadow of fear across Canada

Terry Glavin and Ian Young have valid points along with a good thought experiment to underline them. The distinction between “Canada’s Chinese community” and Chinese Canadians is an important one:

Serving mainly the city’s ethnic Chinese community, Vancouver’s Tenth Church, in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, has been a venerable Vancouver institution, a refuge for the poor and the marginalized, since the 1930s. During a prayer service on Sunday, Aug. 19, a braying, flag-waving mob gathered outside. It took 20 officers from the Vancouver Police Department to guard the church doors, block passing traffic, and escort the frightened parishioners, at the conclusion of the service, through a gathered crowd of more than 100 people.

That same weekend, in Montreal, another crowd of shouting flag-wavers crashed the Pride parade after bullying organizers into barring a group of LGBTQ Chinese-Canadians from participating in the parade. Leading up to the event, on social media, the bullies had talked about following members of the ethnic Chinese group after the parade, to beat them up. The bullies went on to march alongside the annual Montreal parade in their own column, belting out a fiercely nationalistic song in a disruption of the conventional moment of silence honouring the gay community’s dead from homophobic murders, and from the time of the AIDS crisis.

In the case of the Vancouver incident, the mob was made up of people who had showed up earlier in the day, waving Chinese flags, to disrupt a rally in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement that had assembled outside the Vancouver consulate of the People’s Republic of China. The flag wavers heard about the prayer service, which was devoted to Hong Kong’s protesters, and followed the church-goers from the rally.

At the time, a thought occurred to me. Why wasn’t this a Canada-wide, above-the-fold national news story? That little puzzle is easily solved. Most of the churchgoers were not white people, and neither was the mob. They were all mostly ethnic Chinese. If the mob had been made up of preposterously nationalistic, flag-waving white people, it would have been a shocking story about a horrible, racist incident in Vancouver. But if the Christians had been mostly white people, and the mob mostly ethnic Chinese, the incident would have been lurid grist for racist teeth-grinding mills and radio hotline shouters from coast to coast.

In the case of the Montreal Pride incident, a similar thought occurred to the South China Morning Post’s Ian Young, who has developed a habit of breaking big stories overlooked by Canada’s mainstream news media. Based in Vancouver, Young ended up reporting the most complete story about what had happened in Montreal, and his thought experiment went like this: What if a mob of flag-waving American right-wingers had threatened violence and bullied the Pride organizers into expelling an ethnic Chinese group that wanted to honour Hong Kong’s LGBT community? What if the right-wingers had then crashed the parade with their own marchers, and the song they belted out during the solemn moment of silence was the Star-Spangled Banner?

You can probably imagine how widely and thoroughly a story like that would have been reported, and the sorts of stirring speeches our politicians would have made about it. But the bullies in Montreal were from the same pro-Beijing cohort as the bullies in Vancouver, and the song they sang was March of the Volunteers, the anthem of the People’s Republic of China.

You can’t say that the event in Montreal was racist, or even necessarily homophobic, exactly, just as it can’t be said that what happened in Vancouver was categorically racist, or even a straightforward case of religious bigotry. But it is exceedingly difficult to argue that something kindred to racism is not at least involved to some degree, in the way the news media fails to pay attention to the phenomenon of Beijing’s bullying and influence-peddling in Canada. And in the way our politicians, from all the political parties, if only most egregiously the Liberal Party, pander and placate in these matters.

It may not be exactly racist to resort to the term “Canada’s Chinese community,” but it will get you off on the wrong foot, and if you’re not careful, whatever your intentions, you may end up at least serving a fundamentally racist purpose.

There at nearly 2 million people of Chinese descent in Canada, but until very recently, owing to migration facilitated mainly by the scandal-plagued and now-shuttered federal Immigrant Investor Program, Canada’s ethnic Chinese came almost exclusively from the five Cantonese-speaking communities at the mouth of the Pearl River and adjacent areas around Hong Kong. Among Canada’s immigrants classified as ethnic Chinese, there are at least hundreds of thousands of people that Beijing describes in the argot of Communist Party propaganda as the “five poisons”: Taiwanese, Tibetan and Uighur nationalists, followers of Falun Gong religious practices, and democrats.

Increasingly, these Canadians are living in fear. If they aren’t careful about what they say, their family members back in China will end up being badgered, blacklisted, or worse. This fear is particularly acute among Canada’s Uighurs, whose fellow Muslims in Xinjiang have been interned, as many as 2 million of them, in re-education camps.

The fear is spreading in Canada, now that Hong Kong is in turmoil. It is restraining Canadians from exercising their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly in the Chinese-language news media — now controlled almost entirely by wealthy pro-Beijing interests — and in their decisions about whether to risk raising their voices or attending rallies in support of pro-democracy Hongkongers. It is spreading on university campuses — Beijing closely monitors the activities of Canada’s nearly 80,000 Chinese student-visa holders — and Beijing’s United Front Works Department now effectively controls hundreds of Chinese community and business associations, big and small, across Canada.

In these ways, Beijing is asserting its international reach to undermine the inviolable human rights of hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens, and by the reckoning of the Geneva-based Human Rights Watch organization, the problem is getting worse. Earlier this year, Amnesty International and a coalition of diaspora groups presented the Canadian Security Intelligence Service with an exhaustive study that describes in detail the threats and harassment Beijing and its operatives in Canada are spreading.

“Definitely, people are afraid to speak out,” Ivy Li of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong told me. “But it is a dilemma. People are also afraid of backlash, that Canadians in the mainstream will think all Chinese Canadians are involved in infiltration, or are working for Beijing, and will be suspect.”

Li, who emigrated from Hong Kong decades ago, said she has personally experienced hostility owing to perfectly well-justified concerns about Chinese money-laundering and the gross distortions created by Chinese capital investment in the real estate market. “But Canadians are very considerate, and we want our society to be more fair and just, and so this fear of being accused of racism, it is part of why mainstream society, especially the media, allows the pro-Beijing supporters to play the racism card.”

The role racism plays in these necessary debates is obviously complex, but even the most virtuous Canadian politicians have been happy to see Chinese immigrants as cash cows, and to regard Chinese Canadians as voting blocs, Li tells me, “and as Chinese diaspora first, rather than as Canadian citizens first.

“This allows Beijing to own at least part of us in Canada, and it means we are left to fend for ourselves against the Chinese government. And that is racist.”

Source: Glavin: Beijing casts shadow of fear across Canada

Vancouver broadcaster resigns after outcry over Hong Kong remarks

Public pressure in action:

An on-air columnist at Vancouver’s most-listened-to Chinese radio station has resigned after making controversial remarks about the protests in Hong Kong, suggesting pro-democracy demonstrators were partly responsible for a violent incident last month.

The remarks last week by Thomas Leung prompted an outcry from members of Vancouver’s sizeable Hong Kong expatriate community. In the opinion piece on Fairchild Radio, Mr. Leung questioned the innocence of some Hong Kong protesters, who were attacked by a mob of suspected triad gangsters.

Mr. Leung called the July 21 attack “a fight between black and white.”

He was referring to protesters, who usually wear black, and the gang of white-shirted men armed with metal rods and wooden poles who beat up anti-government protesters and others inside a subway station in the Yuen Long neighbourhood, injuring about 45 people, including journalists and a legislator.

In his commentary, which has since been removed online by Fairchild but still exists on other websites, Mr. Leung suggests some pro-democracy protesters, brought by a Democratic lawmaker, provoked those in the white shirts.

The remarks, aired through Fairchild Radio’s Cantonese channel AM 1470 last Wednesday, drew huge backlash online. Hong Kongers and Canadians who have ties to Hong Kong condemned Mr. Leung for twisting the facts and called his comments “false.”

They also encouraged each other to complain to the radio station and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), a self-governing regulatory body for Canada’s private broadcasters. According to a note posted on CBSC’s website, the organization has received a large number of complaints about comments made on the News Talk program, which exceeded the CBSC’s technical processing capacities.

Two days after the incident, Fairchild radio announced Mr. Leung’s resignation through a Facebook post.

“Due to personal reasons, Dr. Thomas Leung has submitted his resignation to Fairchild Radio as of August 22, and has left the ‘News Talk’ program on AM 1470 with immediate effect.”

Travena Lee, news director at Fairchild Radio, said Tuesday the station has no further comment.

Soon after Fairchild’s announcement, Mr. Leung also posted a statement on his public Facebook page, saying what he said in the program were “comments” rather than “news.”

“In my original commentary, I first pointed out that it was wrong for the white-clad men dashing to the subway station and beat people. I also pointed out that, the confrontation between two sides eventually became fights, based upon different videos and reporting from that day,” Mr. Leung said in the post.

He added that different editing of videos from the Yuen Long attack may lead to different opinions.

However, he said, according to various videos, “[I] still saw the clips that both sides fought each other and that’s why I called it the fight between black and white.”

Hong Kong people have called for an investigation of the mob attack. And Mr. Leung stated he too welcomed the investigation, and will apologize if it can be proven that protesters didn’t do anything to provoke the violent clashes.

Mr. Leung is also the president of a non-profit organization called the Culture Regeneration Research Society. A staff member with the organization said Mr. Leung was not available for an interview on Tuesday.

Leo Shin, associate professor of history and Asian studies at University of British Columbia, said as a commentator, Mr. Leung is entitled to his views. But he noted Mr. Leung’s opinion isn’t widely shared.

“That observation on his part is not in accordance to what most people [saw] who were there, or who have viewed the footage either online or through TV.”

Prof. Shin said the Yuen Long incident was a “watershed moment” in the protests, which provoked outrage among Hong Kongers not only because of the attack, but also because of the slow response from Hong Kong police.

Source: Vancouver broadcaster resigns after outcry over Hong Kong remarks

Vancouver Has Been Transformed By Chinese Immigrants

Getting more international attention:

When you cross over the Granville Street Bridge that winds into downtown Vancouver, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Hong Kong. The skyline has the same ribbon of gleaming apartment towers hugging the waterfront, and similar mountains in the distance.

There is also an unabashed display of wealth, readily apparent in the city’s Kitsilano neighborhood. Within a few short blocks, you can find dealerships for some of the world’s most expensive cars: Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin, among others.

At the front of the McLaren showroom are four sleek, high-performance sports cars, known as supercars. Wilson Ng, an account manager with McLaren Automotive, gently runs his hand over one of the 570GT models. “They’re starting around $200,000 to up to $250,000 to $300,000,” he says, up to about $222,000 in U.S. dollars.

That’s for one of the cheaper models in this showroom. The most expensive runs about CA$1 million ($740,587) — the Vancouver showroom sold six last year. Ng says there’s a big market in Vancouver. Most customers are foreign.

“There is a large amount of Asian [supercar buyers], including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, East India, Singapore … so a lot of foreign money,” he says.

Ng says the supercar market in Vancouver started to really take off around 2010, when China’s economy was red-hot. Wealthy Asian immigrants and investors also started buying up businesses and property in the city. The result has been a real estate market now out of reach for many residents, something that is straining the city’s reputation for welcoming newcomers.

A magnet for immigrants

Marianne Wu first came from China to Vancouver as a student seven years ago and now works in marketing and translating. The 27-year-old says she loves the city, just received her permanent residency card and bought a two-bedroom condo downtown.

“You know, people really want to own something because that’s where their security comes from,” she says. Owning property is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, she says, but the government in Beijing doesn’t allow people to own the land their homes are built on.

Wu says her family back in China helped her buy a home in Vancouver. “They push me to buy a property here,” she says. “They want me to have a stable life, which everybody wants.”

Vancouver has long been a magnet for immigrants from all over the world. It is one of Canada’s most diverse cities and prides itself on its multiculturalism. Immigrants began arriving from China in the late 1800s, when laborers came to help build the trans-Canada railway. Shortly after its completion, Canada began cracking down on Chinese immigrants, and banned most of them in the early 1920s.

Half a century later, those policies changed and Canada began encouraging Chinese professionals and entrepreneurs to come. About 20% of Vancouver’s population now identifies as ethnic Chinese.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

The Chinese community has made a positive contribution to Vancouver, says Henry Yu, a historian at the University of British Columbia.

“You’ll see hospital wings, you’ll see at UBC, the Chan Centre for [the] Performing Arts. There are Chinese names on all of the institutions of arts and culture,” he says.

Yu says there was a surge of Chinese immigrants and investment in the Vancouver region in the 1990s, when there was concern over what would happen in 1997, the year Britain handed sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China.

Source: Vancouver Has Been Transformed By Chinese Immigrants

Previous housing data understated number of non-resident buyers in Vancouver and Toronto

The importance of good data and how it could have made a difference in public discussion and debate (not that the real estate industry is likely to change its position given its business interests). Particularly worrisome that a government agency, CMHC, got it so wrong in 2015 with a flawed methodology:

Not so long ago, real estate industry and government officials were doing their best to shut down concerns that skyrocketing housing prices in Vancouver and Toronto were related to non-resident buying.

As it turns out, they were very wrong.

“Basically, if we put every residential property unit that was built in the city of Vancouver from 2006 to 2017 into a single building, every tenth unit [and a bit more] would have been owned by somebody who doesn’t live in the country,” says Andy Yan, urban planner and director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program.

The CMHC condo survey of 2015, a busy year for the real estate market, maintained that foreign ownership of condos was low in metro Vancouver and metro Toronto, at 3.5 and 3.3 per cent respectively.

In 2016, Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation chief executive Evan Siddall told the Vancouver Board of Trade that blaming foreign buying was creating an “unhealthy tension” between “existing residents and newer arrivals.” Instead, he pointed to local investors, population growth and lack of supply as the big factors in Vancouver’s affordability crisis.

But the CMHC’s latest Housing Market Insight report, released last week, shows the previously released data were off by as much as two to three times the actual rate of non-resident participation in home ownership. Based upon the new study, the numbers are actually 11.2 for metro Vancouver and 7.6 for metro Toronto.

The CMHC’s new Housing Market Insight report, in partnership with Statistics Canada, now reveals the extent of non-resident buying in Vancouver. The CMHC had begun releasing its Condominium Apartment Survey in 2014, after collecting information on non-resident ownership, in response to the affordability crisis. But the CMHC only had access to condo data and its methodology was limited. It partnered with Statistics Canada to form the Canadian Housing Statistics Program (CHSP), to address the major gaps in data on housing. In 2017, as part of the federal budget, StatsCan got extra funding to delve deeper into offshore buying, which is when the data got more interesting – and far more accurate. It meant that instead of interviewing building managers about the number of foreign owners in the buildings – an obviously problematic method – the CMHC had data from Canada Revenue Agency and the provincial land titles office to verify tax residency.

Perhaps the most surprising revelation is the rate of non-resident participation in the buying of newly built condos across the region.

“Of the housing units owned by non-residents, 55 per cent are condos,” says Jordan Nanowski, senior CMHC analyst and co-author of the report.

Where non-resident ownership is concerned, metro Vancouver overshadowed Toronto by a wide margin. And new builds were a particular draw. Non-resident owners played a part in 19.2 per cent of Vancouver condos built between 2016 and 2017. In other words, almost 20 per cent of condos built that year had at least one non-resident on title. In Toronto, meanwhile, the number falls to a mere 9 per cent.

Mr. Yan dug deeper into the CHSP data, and came up with more numbers. Non-residents have participated in the ownership of a shocking 14 per cent of all housing types built in the city of Vancouver in the past decade (as in, at least one person who owns the property is a non-resident). For metro Vancouver, that rate is 11.2 per cent. For the city of Toronto, the rate is 8 per cent; metro Toronto is 5.2 per cent.

In Coquitlam, B.C., 20.8 per cent of new condos had at least one non-resident on title. In Surrey, B.C., the figure is 20.5 per cent of condos in that time period. Burnaby, B.C., is at 25.1 per cent. Richmond, B.C., has the highest percentage of all, at a whopping 25.8 per cent, he says.

“In Richmond, condos built between 2016 to 2017, we’re talking about 26 per cent have non-resident participation. That’s one in four.”

The numbers are big in the broader housing market picture as well, with 7.8 per cent of all single detached houses built in metro Vancouver from 2006 to 2017 owned by at least one non-resident purchaser. For condos, the numbers jumps to 18 per cent of all condos built in that time period.

“This is something that people have denied for so long,” Mr. Yan says. “It measures a form of foreign ownership that many have denied was happening, and in proportions that few could imagined.”

Mr. Nanowski says that non-resident participation tended to increase when density increased and prices increased. Across all age groups, non-residents tended to own more expensive homes. But a number that stood out for him was the higher prices of detached homes owned by non-residents in the city of Vancouver. Detached homes in the city owned by non-residents were, on average, assessed at $1.1-million more than those owned by residents. In Toronto, the difference of a detached house owned by resident and non-resident was only $89,000.

“Big difference,” Mr. Nanowski said. “Yes, non-resident premiums are largest in Vancouver and the prevalences are largest in Vancouver as well.”

Using new methodology, the crown corporation has revealed that many properties have a mix of resident and non-resident ownership. They analyzed this mix in the category of “non-resident participation,” meaning at least one owner on title was a non-resident. Put another way, at least one person on title is a non-tax resident, which means they do not have a principal tax residence in Canada. They earn their income and pay their income taxes elsewhere. This is a key difference from the CMHC’s previous methodology, which was to define “non-resident” ownership as a property that was owned entirely by non-residents, or majority-owned by non-residents.

The definition of a “non-resident” is someone whose principal residence is outside of Canada, irrespective of their nationality.

Also, these rates do not include pre-sale purchases, or what units were not owner-occupied and held as investments. The study authors did not provide data on the source countries of origin for non-resident owners.

“The summary of all this is the globalization of Canadian residential real estate,” Mr. Yan said, “and what are you going to do or not do about it, on a federal, provincial and local policy basis? This is about transparency, taxation and fairness, and how we build housing and for who, in our communities.”

Mr. Nanowski says the previous data they used weren’t flawed, but useful for following trends. The new data is much more comprehensive, he says.

“When we look at this data, we want to compare it to itself only, as a kind of cross section and not compare it to previous data. Because there is a change in methodology,” he says.

Josh Gordon, assistant professor at the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University, says that the delay of such important data has likely been a setback. He points out that industry voices used the previously limited CMHC data to bolster their arguments that foreign buying was exaggerated. Prof. Gordon had questioned the CMHC’s reports at the time, and received some flak for it.

“Imagine in 2015 if we had a sense that non-resident buyers were buying 15 per cent or so of new condos. How would that have changed the nature of the debate? Would that not have indicated that there was an issue that needed addressing?,” Prof. Gordon asks.

“Those who wanted to push back against possible restrictions were able to use the ‘authority’ of the CMHC in the debate to good effect, and this delayed possible policy action. More accurate data would have helped build the case for policy restrictions, and that might have mitigated the sharp escalation of prices.”

Mr. Yan found it ironic that the report was released the same week as the City of Vancouver announced its annual homeless count was underway.

“Perversely, this week saw the release of measures on two drastically different ends of Vancouver’s housing situation. With the CMHC release, we see the numbers of homeowners who don’t live in the country, juxtaposed with Vancouver doing its homeless count of those who actually live here, but don’t have the benefit of a home.”

Douglas Todd: Female foreign students endure harassment, exploitation

Of note:

Female foreign students from South Asia are experiencing sexual harassment by landlords, exploitation by bosses, and ethno-cultural double-standards, all the while dealing with their own fears of being deported.

Metro Vancouver community workers are warning about the particular vulnerability of the increasing number of young women coming to Canada from the Punjab region of India and other parts of South Asia, whose often-modest families have sold off much of their property and assets to get them to Canada.

Stories are emerging that some female international students — desperate to make enough money to avoid returning to their homelands — are resorting to offering sexual services to landlords and are even getting involved in the drug trade, says Kal Dosanjh, a police officer who runs a Surrey-based support program called Kids Play.

The young women are frightened, especially when exploitative employers in the underground economy, including at some restaurants, threaten to report them to immigration officials and have them deported, said Dosanjh.

“When these kids, who don’t know the law, hear about deportation, they get scared, because they’ve already spent so much money coming to Canada, and so much money surviving here, that the last thing they need is to be sent back to their country,” Dosanjh said.

There are more than 500,000 foreign students in Canada. After a jump of almost 50,000 additional students from India in 2017, one quarter of Canada’s international students now come from there.

“It’s a source of shame if they get sent home. They fear they’ll never get the chance to come back to Canada,” said Dosanjh, who also works with male foreign students whom he says tend to get exploited by under-paying construction companies or become low-level participants in the drug trade to pay high student fees and rents.

Being able to fly into Canada on a student visa is seen as the “ticket out of India, out of poverty” for many students, said Dosanjh. “For them to be able to stay here means everything in terms of future job prospects, monetary wealth, sanitary conditions, a significant change in lifestyle.” Many will put up with a lot of hardship to avoid going home.

MOSAIC, a large B.C. settlement service for migrants, this year began training teachers and other education officials about what they could do to support women among Metro Vancouver’s 110,000 foreign students, who the agency maintains are generally “more likely to be sexually assaulted and less likely to be helped” than native-born students.

“New research confirms that international students reported more sexual assault than domestic students and experience more intense fear, helplessness and horror after victimization,” says a statement from MOSAIC, whose 350 staff members are led by CEO Olga Stachova.

“Some perpetrators of sexual violence see international students as easy targets — too ashamed to report sexual assaults, unaware of where they can get help and influenced by different cultural norms.”

MOSAIC highlighted the case of Maham Kamal Khanum, an international student from Pakistan at UBC, who said sexual violence against women is “normalized” in her home country. “It was almost a culture shock to learn how unacceptable sexual violence was here,” Khanum said.

Dupinder Kaur Saran, Kal Dosanjh, Kiran Toor. Saran and Toor are volunteers with Kids Play, which helps youth in Surrey who are getting into trouble. Kal Dosanjh is a police officer and head of the non-profit group.

Many international students “don’t have a place to belong” when they come to Canada, says Kiran Toor, who, along with Dupinder Saran, has volunteered to work with international students through Kids Play, a large Surrey-based non-profit organization devoted to supporting young people, particularly South Asians.

Many foreign students are under a great deal of financial, social and academic pressure, including to learn English.

A recent article in Desi Today, an Indo-Canadian magazine in B.C., said it’s common for male and female foreign students to work more than the 20 hours a week permitted under a Canadian study visa.

The magazine quoted South Asian community workers who know of intimidated young women being sexually harassed in the workplace by employers, because they have worked many hours over their allowed limit and don’t want to be reported to border officials.

The young women especially feel shame about admitting to something that might hurt their reputations.

In 2017 there was a sudden jump of 48,000 more students from India. (Source: Canadian Bureau for International Education)

While Dosanjh said many female students from India are “liberal, open-minded and sophisticated,” Desi Today quoted community officials who said some traditional Indo-Canadians are “talking bad about the girl students from India.” Some Indo-Canadians don’t like that the young women are often see in public with males. Most officials cited in Desi Today did not respond to The Vancouver Sun’s messages.

At the worst, Dosanjh said, some Indian foreign students who are desperate for cash are getting involved in prostitution and the drug trade. The young men, says the longtime Vancouver police officer, are generally serving as “mules” and the women are agreeing to hold drugs for their male friends.

The effort to help schools provide more support to female foreign students who arrive in Canada without support networks is hampered, MOSAIC’s Stachova said, by the under-reporting of difficult incidents. “The students always think they have the worry: What will happen to my status in Canada?”

Even though the problem of exploitation of female foreign students is real in Metro Vancouver, Stachova said it has to be put into perspective. “I don’t want to sound alarmist,” Stachova said, “because we are generally a safe country.”

Still, the stakes are exceedingly high for the students.

As Dosanjh says, many families in India, particularly in the Punjab, see Canada as a kind of heaven on earth. “So the young people think of it is a land of rich amenities, where they can have a better life, become permanent residents and eventually sponsor their family to come over. That means that once these students come here the last thing most of them want to do is return to India.”

All of which make them more susceptible than most to exploitation.

foreign students from South Asia are experiencing sexual harassment by landlords, exploitation by bosses, and ethno-cultural double-standards, all the while dealing with their own fears of being deported. Metro Vancouver community workers are warning about the particular vulnerability of the increasing number of young women coming to Canada from the Punjab region of India and other parts of South Asia, whose often-modest families have sold off much of their property and assets to get them to Canada.

Source: Douglas Todd: Female foreign students endure harassment, exploitation

Douglas Todd: Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?

Interesting questions regarding a possible backdoor.

A question I find also interesting is looking at reported income through tax returns to get a sense of how well these immigrants are doing and whether their capital that allows them to purchase a house is matched by an ongoing income stream (rhetorical question – see Todd: Tax avoidance behind Metro’s disconnect between housing, income where the data suggests it is not):

How did it come to pass that thousands of people who came to Metro Vancouver through a provincial immigration scheme bought pricey houses?

A Statistics Canada report shows 2,370 people who recently arrived in B.C. through a provincial immigration program have bought single-family houses worth an average of $2.38 million in Metro Vancouver, which is $800,000 above the norm for Canadian-born house buyers.

It’s a startling figure, in part because politicians often trumpet how the relatively small provincial immigration programs were created primarily to fine-tune Ottawa’s bulkier immigration policy by pinpointing the right skilled workers for each local labour market.

Given that the emphasis of so-called “provincial nominee programs” is supposed to be on newcomers looking for a job, how have thousands since 2009 been able to quickly buy pricey Metro Vancouver real estate? It’s difficult to get an answer from officialdom. So we’re left to our own devices to figure out this irregular access.

I’m not alone in suggesting one of the last things most young people need in Metro Vancouver’s unaffordable housing market is to be squeezed out by another stream of foreign capital. The B.C. NDP government is among those trying to crack down on this price-inflating phenomenon associated with “satellite families” who buy stately homes.

But the revealing data is there in the particulars of a January Statistics Canada report. Its charts point to the way many families are coming to Metro Vancouver with large amounts of wealth, which they’ve been funnelling into housing.

Chart shows value of Metro Vancouver detached homes bought by recent newcomers under the Provincial Nominee Program and other immigration investor schemes. (Source: Statistics Canada report titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver.)

And it’s not only Metro Vancouver’s housing market that has been hit by millionaire migrants entering through provincial immigration programs. So has Greater Toronto’s. The average price of a Toronto house bought by a recent provincial nominee is $1.06 million, according to the StatsCan report, while the average price of a detached house of Canadian-born owners in Toronto is significantly less, $849,000.

And just as in Metro Vancouver, it is the recent newcomers to Toronto from China who have had the most cash to spend on property. Mainland Chinese make up about two of three of the home buyers in each city who arrived through the nominee program.

The StatsCan report, titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver, offers only a snapshot of this provincial nominee mansion phenomenon, however. It doesn’t capture the program’s link to condominiums. And it leaves open speculation about causes.

Therefore, many questions remain outstanding about what is going on with provincial nominee programs, questions which are typically paid little heed.

B.C.’s provincial nominee program brought 6,500 newcomers to the province in 2018, a large jump from the 2,600 it  welcomed a decade earlier.

But it is a puzzle how 2,370 provincial nominees since 2009 were able to quickly buy costly houses in Metro Vancouver, especially when the vast majority of such nominees were classified as “workers.”

Only about one per cent of provincial nominees to B.C. — an average of about 80 a year — arrive under the “entrepreneur” category. They are the ones who are worth more than $600,000 and required to invest $200,000 in a B.C. business. It’s common sense to expect many in this tiny group of entrepreneur/investors to arrive in B.C. with capital and to pump part or most of it into real estate.

That is exactly what happened with the federal government’s investor program, which the Conservatives killed in 2014 because so many rich immigrants were snapping up Canadian property but not operating businesses or paying significant income taxes.

Despite such unintended consequences, a large entrepreneur program continues to be run by Quebec. It cynically takes millions from thousands of rich would-be immigrants each year, even while most hastily move to Vancouver or Toronto.

Indeed, the January StatsCan report shows the average value of a detached house bought by more than 4,400 millionaire immigrants who came to Metro Vancouver in the past decade under Ottawa’s investor program, and the one operated by Quebec, is $3.2 million. That’s unfortunate enough in regards to fuelling high-end prices, with its trickle-down effect to all housing.

But how is it that the much smaller provincial nominee programs of B.C. and perhaps other provinces are also bringing in thousands of wealthy home buyers headed for Vancouver and Toronto?

A spokeswoman for B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology, which oversees the provincial nominee program, wouldn’t venture a guess. “It is good to see newcomers coming to Canada and being able to invest in their own business and homes,” she said. “We are unable to speculate on the amount of foreign capital they bring into Canada.”

The minister of jobs, trade and technology, Bruce Ralston, also declined to comment until he had a look at the Statistics Canada report. “It’s an area where I’d have to have the facts.”

In the meantime here are a few questions that need to be answered.

Is it possible many of the buyers of Metro Vancouver mansions are coming in not only from B.C.’s nominee program, but from other provincial programs, such as that in Prince Edward Island, which was cancelled last year. It was riddled with fraud and hundreds of would-be immigrants used fake addresses to pretend they lived in P.E.I.

Another question is whether people buying expensive Metro Vancouver properties are coming in through a camouflaged nominee category, such as “skilled worker.”

The top occupations of those coming in the past two years under the B.C. provincial nominee’s “skilled worker” category were restaurant and food service employees, including cooks and kitchen helpers, as well truck drivers and retail managers.

While Ralston said he needs to gather more information before commenting on whether immigrants who buy expensive houses in Metro Vancouver are coming in as truck drivers, food workers or another irregular category, he justifiably noted Attorney General David Eby and Finance Minister Carole James are trying to tackle a related aspect of the housing crisis.

The two major aims of the ministers’ new speculation and vacancy tax are to increase housing supply by reducing the number of empty dwellings and by targeting satellite families, who often buy and live in expensive properties but pay little or no income tax in Canada.

Since thousands of millionaire migrants appear to have found backdoor ways to enter Metro Vancouver’s over-priced housing market through the Provincial Nominee Program, it looks as if this scheme is part of the problem. As such it needs far more scrutiny.

Source: Douglas Todd: Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?