Much has been written in these pages in The Vancouver Sun about Catalyst Paper and its battle to see the District of North Cowichan bring balance to its industrial tax rates. Now, with the company in creditor protection, little time to set the fundamentals right, and a recognition that jobs and benefits could be lost forever if they arenâ€™t, there has been much attention paid to the role of the North Cowichan councilâ€™s tax intransigence in killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
North Cowichan council does not stand alone in demonstrating â€œme-firstâ€� policies that threaten all around it. The Hawaii state legislature has taken dead aim at NAFTA and the provisions it requires of the state, and the protections it affords Canadians who make cross-border investments in vacation rental properties.
Through digital communications and the Internet, owners of vacation rentals have been able to rent them out to Canadians and others seeking to visit the Aloha State, using websites theyâ€™ve created, and others theyâ€™ve joined, like Vacation Rentals By Owner. And no wonder: As the state reported last year, Canadians travel in party sizes of two or more, are more commonly repeat visitors, independent travellers, and stay in hotels and condominiums. Canadian vacationers get the accommodation they want, and the state reaps great benefit from its tourism export. The Hawaii Tourism Authority reports that, in December 2011 alone, visitor arrivals from Canada were the force in Hawaii tourism, spending close to $1 billion.
But like the video store, the record store, and the landline home phone, Hawaii property rental companies have been hit hard by the digital age. Travellers are, for a host of reasons, deciding theyâ€™d prefer to rent directly from an owner, and the Internet makes this possible. In the face of this consumer choice, Hawaii property rental agencies and the realtors they employ had two choices: compete in the digital age, or find a fix that turned back the clock. And in pressing the turn-back-the-clock easy button, they found Hawaii state legislators happy to oblige.
Four bills are advancing through the Hawaii legislature that target off-island, i.e., Canadian, owners
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