Dear Minister Orazietti
Minister of Consumer and Government Services, Ontario
I recently read a letter you sent (Dec. 9, 2014) to a new homeowner with long-standing serious problems with Tarion.
As you know, for several months individual consumers, advocates, and consumer organizations have met with you and your staff to underline many serious, on-going, festering problems with Tarion. We had hoped you might be the first in a long chain of seemingly complacent Ministers to finally understand and address consumer problems with Tarion.
Reading your letter of Dec. 9th, however, it seems our efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Your Ministry seems content to keep getting Tarion’s report card from Tarion itself.
We are all aware that arms-length agencies of the Liberal government have produced several shocking spending scandals within the last year such as ORNGE, e-Health, OPG, MaRS, the Pan-Am Games, and the billion-dollar GAS PLANT debacle. We’ve been asking your Ministry to take pre-emptive action on Tarion. We’ve been asking you to provide independent oversight to prevent further serious problems. But we continue to see, despite periodic window-dressing, nothing has been done.
Your letter of Dec. 9th indicates you seem content with the current arms-length accountability model of the Ministry as a sort of customer service and communications partner of Tarion. You use phrases like “I am advised that Tarion…”, and “I understand that Tarion…”. This is worrying to us since it paints you as a passive receiver, instead of an independent verifier, of the information Tarion produces.
You state “You understand” Tarion’s Chair made a commitment at its Annual Public Meeting (30/04/14), to change its use of the License Appeal Tribunal. But who’s going to make sure they actually DO anything? A full eight months on, nothing has been done. Consumers have received no answers to their inquiries.
Tarion’s PR and Marketing machinery tells us, as you do in your letter, “Tarion has a history of…progressive steps to improve governance, transparency, customer service and consumer protection”. Sounds good, but who’s verifying this? Tarion?
Who’s overseeing Tarion’s in-house “ombudsperson”? Tarion itself.
With its government-granted monopoly, revenues of $33 million, (2013), salaries and benefits of over $24 million, $9 million in administrative costs, yet a mere #3.5 million paid out in homeowner claims, Tarion’s financial picture cries out for independent scrutiny. There is none.
Consumers have for years complained to your Ministry that Tarion’s policy-making is biased toward the interests of the building industry. There is no meaningful conduit for consumers to give feedback to Tarion’s senior levels. The President of the Liberal Party of Ontario, responsible for fundraising, is a Tarion senior V.P. This can hardly be expected to encourage trust in Tarion’s independence from the powerful and affluent building lobbies. Since eight prominent builders sit on Tarion’s board, that’s undoubtedly good for fund-raising, but doesn’t do much for consumers. Yet Tarion was created to protect consumers, not builders.
We are scandal-weary in this province. We are skeptical of arms-length agencies of government operating their monopolies with little or no oversight. Tarion has been given an important public trust function. Why are no preventive measures being taken to scrutinize how this indirect tax on every new home buyer is being used?
Tarion seems a prime example of “the butcher inspecting his own meat”.
We’d like to trust Tarion, Minister Orazietti, as you demonstrably do. But experience has taught us “trust but verify” is the better policy.
Volunteer Consumer Advocate