“We feel we’ve been played”… new home buyers re Liberal policy-makers

For months since Premier Wynne appointed yet another new Minister of Consumer/Government Services (the 5th in 6 years), consumer groups have spent hours meeting with the new Minister and his staff to bring them up to speed on serious consumer problems with Tarion and the License Appeal Tribunal.

While doing this, many of us have wondered – where’s all the information we’ve presented to this Minister’s predecessors? Why are we using our precious time as volunteers to constantly re-brief a revolving door of new Liberal Ministers and staff? Isn’t that what public servants get paid for? Where is the record of all our e-mails and meetings on this topic dating back to 2009-14?

I must be very old school, but it used to be that you’d have to read and understand files BEFORE meeting with various concerned stakeholders. I guess this business practice has also gone the route of the dinosaur.

Tarion Warranty Corporation, the Ontario government’s arms-length monopoly and the appeal body, the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT), have failed many consumers who discovered construction defects in their newly built homes.

A surprise to us two days ago was a copy of a letter sent (07/10/2014) to  Tarion’s CEO from the Assistant Deputy Minister, Mr. Denton,  offering kindly to help Tarion fix several serious consumer complaints (among other things) about their use of the LAT.

It stated the following: (re the LAT legal body for appeals of Tarion’s decisions):

A less litigious and adversarial process would also address concerns the ministry has heard from homeowners that they are dissuaded from pursuing LAT appeals because the existing processes are not transparent, and are complicated, time-consuming, costly, and unbalanced. The Ministry would be pleased to assist Tarion with …development of a possible mediation process and/or other efforts to improve the dispute resolution process for homeowners. We understand that the Tarion board chair committed to a review of this issue (…) April 30, 2014. “

So where has this letter been for the last four months? Why has the Ministry been playing cat-and-mouse games for months about the nature and seriousness of these problems with consumers and advocacy groups?

Consumers continue to proceed like sheep-to-the-slaughter-house to appeal Tarion’s dismissed warranty claims, losing 83-96% of the cases.  The government oversight body of the LAT (SLASTO) admitted in December last year, whoops we really should train our adjudicators in dealing with  self-represented litigants, and consumer-ize our “terrible” website.

It appears this Ministry letter has been a well-kept secret at Tarion for months too, where senior executives continue to say the only consumers complaining about Tarion/LAT are a small group of tough-luck cases and perpetual malcontents.

It seems we’ve been played.

Where has this letter been for the last 4 months, and what has become of the 9-month old “commitment” of April 2014 to reform Tarion’s heavy-handed use of the LAT?

Knowing the new Minister has this information, and has had it for several months, we wonder how he could possibly refuse to vote for Bill 60, new legislation to bring accountability and transparency  to Tarion.

The governing Liberals have a trust and credibility problem with consumers on this issue. They need to “do the right thing” and protect consumers, not Tarion, not the LAT, and not their comfortable connections to the building lobbies.

3 Comments

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3 responses to ““We feel we’ve been played”… new home buyers re Liberal policy-makers

  1. nicole lalonde

    Not listening, sheepishly stalling , neglecting, denying , blatantly disregarding , prioritizing but certainly not in terms of consumer social and fiscal responsibility is the order of the day for the provincial government in power ; and particularly when it comes to consumer issues such as new homeowners rights to protection and fairness against the building industry ….” a small group of tough-luck cases and perpetual malcontents.” they infer ??? those malcontents have decided they have had enough and have mustered the stamina and determination to ” pursue ” their rights, this time without falling to Goliath s sword. The Consumer Protection Act exists , follow its regulations. And should a true and complete investigation of this very serious cancer be launched by the powers that be , they would find out that a high percentage of the ill done by do not even report their house deficiencies . One of the reasons ? they observe what the ” small group of tough-luck cases ” must go through to get , in many occasions, not even a crumb.The fact that it took this long to obtain a ” letter ” is well indicative of where the governing Liberals are again taking us !! Bill 60, new legislation to bring accountability and transparency to Tarion .IS ESSENTIAL !!

  2. “The governing Liberals have a trust and credibility problem with consumers on this issue. They need to “do the right thing” and protect consumers,..” EXACTLY!!!

  3. Barbara Captijn hits the nail on the head! Who EXACTLY is the government protecting? It is clearly not Ontario’s consumers.

    CPBH’s experience on these serious issues with the monopoly Tarion and the LAT goes back more than 10 years now. On average, we have seen a new “consumer protection” minister annually. With a change in Minister usually comes a change in Ministerial staff — and as Barbara notes, we have worked hard to try to reeducate these folks. But the writer of the four month old letter that recently surfaced is Assistant Deputy Minister Frank Denton — who has been with this ministry for EIGHT years now. CPBH met with Mr. Denton many years ago, and has written to him on a number of occasions over the years. But, we have received no meaningful response from him. Yet, based on his Oct. 2014 letter, clearly Mr. Denton knows of the serious problems with Tarion and the LAT. Where is ADM Denton’s accountability and transparency to Ontario’s consumers?

    As one specific example, tragically, many Ontarians continue to freeze in their newly built homes. MPP Chudleigh called for a full investigation in the Ontario Legislature related to this serious issue in Feb. 2012 — that HE said had been going on for a decade at that time. CTV’s W-Five aired a segment on this serious issue in Ontario in Mar. 2012. Yet this issue continues. Many are still calling for the full investigation requested by MPP Chudleigh, including nationally recognized heating, ventilation and air-conditioning expert Dara Bowser and CPBH. Minister Orazietti’s staff have now been well briefed on this very serious issue — by consumers directly impacted, by Mr. Bowser and by CPBH. We are waiting to hear what, if anything, Minister Orazietti will do related to this specific issue. Ontarians need full accountability and transparency on this serious issue.

    Minister Orazietti has not yet responded to dozens of e-mails sent to him by CPBH since he became the minister. These e-mails have identified many specific issues negatively impacting Ontario’s consumers. While his staff has been gathering more information, Minister Orazietti remains mum. Where is Minister Orazietti’s accountability and transparency to Ontario’s consumers?

    Premier Wynne continues to refuse to acknowledge these serious problems. This situation is so bad that in 2014 a group of brave Tarion employees risked their jobs and “blew the whistle” on Tarion, by writing directly to the Premier. Yet, the Premier remains silent on these issues. Where is Premier Wynne’s accountability and transparency to Ontario’s consumers? (To see this whistle-blower letter to Premier Wynne, go to http://www.canadiansforproperlybuilthomes.com under “What’s New” on the homepage.)

    Bill 60, the Tarion Accountability and Transparency Act (introduced in Dec. 2014 by MPP Jagmeet Singh) paves a way forward for Ontario re new home warranty. The Liberals need to get behind Bill 60 – or introduce meaningful and appropriate legislation of their own. Tinkering around the edges behind the scenes with Tarion does not cut it.

    As for the LAT, obviously Ontarians need new legislation for that too. As the annual CPBH analysis has shown for eight years, consumers’ success rates at the LAT are simply unacceptable. With the recent admissions by SLASTO/LAT leaders — e.g., the LAT adjudicators need TRAINING particularly in relation to self-represented parties — many simply can’t believe that this has been allowed to go on for so long. How is this possible in Ontario: Adjudicators hearing cases but they are not sufficiently trained?

    For another specific example, homeowners currently before the LAT are alleging missing recordings when they complained of being bullied by an LAT adjudicator and others during the LAT hearing. (Refer to the Facebook site “Make Tarion Accountable” for more info on these homeowners’ allegations.) Other homeowners have complained of missing recordings/transcripts at the LAT over the years.

    Some are calling this ongoing situation at the LAT a “travesty of justice” and calling for another full investigation. Again, CPBH has been making government officials aware of these problems for eight years now. To see CPBH’s analysis related to the LAT, go to http://www.canadiansforproperlybuilthomes.com under “What’s New” on the homepage.

    It is very important to remember – the purchase of a home is the largest purchase most consumers make. Ontarians need – and deserve – adequate consumer protection, AND a fair appeal process.

    Karen Somerville
    President, Canadians for Properly Built Homes

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