Monthly Archives: May 2014

….From The New Yorker Magazine, “bureaucracy cartoons”; by C.Barsotti



SIX dirty little words the Ontario Liberals won’t say…

The recently announced OLP platform for the Ontario 2014 June election touts “condo reform”. While it vows to reform (“modernize”) condo reserve fund rules, licensing of condo managers, and to “improve the condo experience“, this has been two years in the pipeline without concrete action, according to many observers. This is some good news, if it is eventually implemented.

BUT, why can’t anyone in an oversight or regulatory authority just say these 6 words to builders: “STOP building defects into new homes!” Period. Full stop. And if you don’t stop, we’ll ensure you face consequences in order to protect future home buyers.

Consumer protection language on defects is absent from the current Liberal proposal. In any other profession, the medical profession for example, shoddy doctors get their licenses revoked by the medical licensing authority for malpractice. Builders don’t often get their licenses revoked by Tarion for building defects, and there is no transparent record of many of these defects on Tarion’s “Ontario Builder Directory”.

For years consumers have complained to Tarion that its “Ontario Builder Directory” is not a complete or accurate disclosure of the building defects they know about, have inspected or warranted. In mid-2013 they themselves agreed with this in a Toronto Star investigative report. If defects are discovered after warranty deadlines, or do not fit narrow warranty definitons, they should still be recorded on Tarion’s builder track records. They are not.

Why are the words “CONSUMER PROTECTION” rarely mentioned by regulatory authorities in new home building? Why is there seemingly so little effort to PREVENT DEFECTS FROM BEING BUILT INTO NEW HOMES IN THE FIRST PLACE? Consumer advocate Peter Silverman outlines this problem in a video interview in April 2104 posted on this Blog.

Why is the Liberal government not talking about clamping down on illegal building practices like – short-cutting in workmanship and materials, the use of unqualified sub-trades, the lack of supervision of trades on building sites, builders squeezing sub-trades to maximize their own profits, the lack of meaningful inspections by either Tarion or municipal inspectors during the building process? This is how defects happen. Why isn’t anyone talking about preventing this?

Why is the current Liberal platform “protecting condo owners”, doing nothing to address building defects which can end up bankrupting new condo buyers?

It appears the Wynne government thinks condo owners need “protecting”, but buyers of new freehoold homes can just bl…y well fend for themselves.

All the above didn’t make much sense, the Liberals again announcing a plan to “protect condo owners“, without making any mention of how they’ll get builders to stop building condos with defects. Until I read the Ontario Home Builders Association (OHBA)’s analysis of curent election platforms, and their message to their membership about how hard they work to influence political parties to favour their interests. (The  OHBA also appoint 8 out of 13 members of Tarion’s board). Now its clear. Seems the old adage is true: throw enough money at a problem, and you’re likely to get solutions in your favour.

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May 26, 2014 · 8:45 pm

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath guarantees her party will help consumers with the “horror stories” many have experienced.

In the run-up to the Provincial election of June 12th, 2014, homeowner Jeffrey Ferland asks NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on 1010 Newstalk Radio: What will your party will do, if elected, to help new home/condo buyers to get justice with Tarion Warranty Corporation? Too many homeowners have been left without adequate protection.

Ms. Horwath responds that her party has for years heard “horror stories” from consumers who have been left on their own to deal with new home defects they thought were covered under the province’s Tarion Warranty programme. She stated her party has heard, “scores and scores and scores of complaints” over many years about new home defects which Tarion has not resolved. Yet she points out Tarion was designed to do just that – provide the basics – new homes without defects – and prevent consumers from being “ripped off” by shoddy builders. She points out this issue has been raised “time and time again in the Legislature, but the Liberals continue to ignore it.
She stated her party, the NDP, is determined to bring justice to this system for consumers.
Thank you, Andrea Horwath, and NDP colleagues, for understanding this serious issue from the homeowner’s/taxpayer’s standpoint.

Can a Delegated Administrative Authority of the government, with a government-mandated monopoly…. betoo big to care”? Why won’t the Liberal Party take a stand on this issue to finally help ordinary Ontarians, the very people they themselves keep telling us, time and time again, they care so much about?

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May 21, 2014 · 3:03 pm

MPP – member of the Ontario Legislature – speaks out about Tarion: bring back the consumer focus.

MPP Marchese has called Tarion a “black box“, lacking meaningful oversight and dominated by the building industry. He joins other MPP’s from all three parties calling for oversight of Tarion by the Ombudsman of Ontario and the Auditor General, and has brought forward legislation to do this, although this is now in limbo due to the election June 12, 2014.
See his short interview here from May 2014.

Tarion saying builders are the best ones to look after the interests of consumers is just as nonsensical as saying consumers are the best to look after the interests of the building industry. Tarion is supposed to be”protecting new home buyers”, not new home builders. That’s why it was created.
The Liberal government, under Premiers Wynne/McGuinty, has turned a deaf ear – for years – to reforms to Tarion, which have not been seriously attempted in its 37-year history. It’s time for someone to step up to the plate for consumers and fix this problem, a complex and multidimensional one. MPP Marchese understands these complex issues, and has great empathy for the human side of the issue. He’s spearheaded many efforts over the last several years to bring legislation to help new home and condo buyers get the protection they deserve, and he will continue to do so.

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May 18, 2014 · 9:07 pm

Members of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly speak out about consumer issues with TARION

Member of Provincial Parliament, Cheri DiNovo speaks out about: What’s broken at Tarion

Here are excepts from her letter to a homeowner dated April 24, 2014. Reproduced with permission from MPP DiNovo’s office.

Dear (Homeowner),

(…)  You are absolutely right – there are far too many issues with Tarion, and there needs to be legislation to protect homeowners. That is why the NDP has tabled a Bill to give the Ontario Ombudsman oversight over Tarion.  (…)  The NDP has also met with Ministers of Consumer Services over the years pressing them again and again to take action on this.

Tarion Warranty Corporation is a private, developer-run corporation created by the government to protect new home buyers.  Most of Tarion’s funding comes from Ontario’s home buyers, but Tarion does not answer to consumers. It answers to the developers it is supposed to regulate. We in the NDP have raised questions to the Minister of Consumer Services, Tracy MacCharles to explain why a corporation set up to protect consumers seems more interested in fighting consumers at the License Appeal Tribunal, while protecting builders?

The bottom line is that the Liberal government is not interested in reforming Tarion in any way.

At a recent Ontario Liberal party AGM, the Liberals elected (…) the government relations director of Tarion Warranty Corporation. In other words, the lobbyist for a developer-controlled corporation now has influence over the distribution of political contributions to local campaigns. The construction and development industry is already by far the biggest contributor to political campaigns, and now its grip on the Ontario Liberal Party has tightened further. This is relevant to understanding why the Liberal government seems so reluctant to do anything about Tarion.


Office of Cheri DiNovo, MPP

Calls and e-mails to Premier Wynne’s office from consumers and consumer organizations expressing concerns about Tarion have not been responded to, from March 2013 to date, May 2014.  This seems inconceivable from a Premier who promised us she stood for “transparency and accountability”, and “got into politics to help people”.  How to explain this? Follow the money.


Filed under Uncategorized

Sound familiar?

New Yorker Cartoon, Conde Nast, by C.Weyant

New Yorker Cartoon, Conde Nast, by C.Weyant

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Filed under Consumers' Reform, Tarion Warranty Corporation

Is Tarion’s in-house “ombudsman” impartial?

Many consumers have voiced dissatisfaction to Tarion about its internal “Office of the Ombudsman”. Many have told  Tarion senior management the term “ombudsman” shouldn’t be used by an employee whose responsibility it is to investigate his own employer.  In order to be credible, this office requires complete independence and impartiality.

Often Tarion’s “ombudsman” has to seek approval from Tarion’s own senior management before investigating matters brought to his office by concerned consumers. By the “ombudsman’s” own admission at the April 30th, 2014 Annual Public Meeting, his office is “dependent” on Tarion’s board, and 8 out of 13 are builders.

What’s going on here?

As Mr. Marin, the Ombudsman of Ontario, stated in a paper to the “Standing Committee on General Government” in 2006: Under no circumstances should ombudsmen be employees of the organizations they oversee“.  He adds that many organizations use the term ombudsman to “create public relations departments cloaked in the mantle of ombudsmen.”

Why should Tarion be an exception to this rule?

Many consumers have relied on Tarion’s ombudsman as an “independent investigator of complaints” about Tarion, which is the definition of an ombudsman. But they have sadly found he will not investigate, or says the matter is beyond his mandate.

We get it. Then the name of this department should be changed.  The title “ombudsman” gives consumers the reasonable expectation of  independence and impartiality in any investigation. But under its current reporting and pay structure, this office seems unable to provide a credible investigation of its own employer’s business practices.

A Compliance Officer, reporting to the Ministry of Consumer Services, to make sure all rules and procedures are followed at Tarion, and all parties treated fairly under the rules, would seem to make more sense. This suggestion has been brought to Tarion’s senior management in writing several times,  twice by consumers at Tarion’s Annual Public Meetings. But it has been repeatedly ignored or brushed aside in favour of the current in-house “ombudsman’s office”, which seems a fool’s errand.

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Filed under Consumers' Reform, Tarion Warranty Corporation

Dr. Karen Somerville, President of “Canadians for Properly Built Homes” speaking after Tarion’s Annual Public Meeting

Premier Wynne, you can run, but you can’t hide.

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May 1, 2014 · 9:31 pm

Well-respected consumer journalist Dr. Peter Silverman speaks out about Tarion

DR. PETER SILVERMAN spoke out on this video clip for social media after the Tarion Annual General Meeting. Mr. Silverman is a well-known broadcast journalist, a consumer advocate for 25 years, and has won numerous high-profile awards for service to the Province and the people of Ontario.  He hits the nail on the head in his assessment of the problems at Tarion Warranty Corporation.  


by B.Captijn

“There’s a disconnect” as Mr.Silverman points out, between what Tarion’s vast marketing machinery is telling the public, and what consumers actually experience with the new home warranty. Last night’s Annual Public Meeting seemed to leave Tarion’s board numb or dumbfounded by the intensity and sheer number of concerns voiced by consumers. Some board members I talked to seemed unaware of the serious concerns consumers have voiced with their organization.

Its true what Peter Silverman says in this short video clip taken after the meeting: this is a political problem. Karen Somerville of the consumer organization CPBH clearly states this in her message to the Premier, also posted on social media after the meeting.

But with the building industry the main contributor to Provincial political campaigns, there’s no political will to clamp down on builders’ influence or privileges at Tarion. Since neither the Ombudsman of Ontario nor the Auditor General can scrutinize Tarion’s business practices, and since the Ministry of Consumer Services seems to have become little more than a puppet of Tarion, this is a monopoly dominated by the industry it is supposed to be regulating. If it seems Tarion doesn’t really care about consumers, its because they don’t have to. There’s no independent body looking over their shoulders. Do you want to find out what Tarion’s 9 Vice Presidents and Board members earn? Sorry that’s a black box too, they are not subject to the Sunshine List either.

A monopoly without effective oversight is a scary thing.  For consumers, not builders.

Many consumers and MPPs support Rosario Marchese’s Bill 139 for Accountability and Oversight of Tarion, and PC MPP Norm Miller’s Bill 190 for the Auditor General’s oversight of Tarion. Both bills have promising support in the Legislature, but will be in limbo if Ms.Wynne calls an election in May/June 2014.

My suggestion, which has been made by many others, on several occasions:

Split up the warranty-providing function of Tarion which is meant to serve consumers, from the regulating and licensing function, which serves builders. You cannot serve two masters at the same time. Tarion is a “walking conflict of interest” in the words of a prominent MPP who has often spoken out about Tarion.  Splitting up these two conflicting functions would eliminate the conflicts which are currently causing consumers so much hardship. With all the lawyers, senior accountants, and “corporate governance experts” on Tarion’s board, are we to believe they don’t see this?


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May 1, 2014 · 8:38 pm