Dear Premier Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario,
Since you took office in 2013, I have written two Open Letters to you asking you to bring urgent reforms to your monopoly, Tarion Warranty Corporation. You have answered neither. My e-mails and calls to your office have been brushed aside. Your automated reply says you are pleased to refer me to Minister Orazietti, Minister of Government and Consumer services, who has also not responded. Worse, he has given media interviews saying he’s open to consumers, positive spin for any politician, but once consumers have taken the time to write, he’s fallen silent.
Is this a political game?
As you know, Tarion’s 2014 annual report was recently presented to the Legislature. This monopoly paid itself approximately $24 million in salaries (executive salaries secret), while paying out only about $4.9 million in claims. It has revenues of $71 million, of which $34 million from home enrollment fees passed on to new home buyers, and $35 million from investment income. You would think this arms-length monopoly with minimal oversight would be subject to strict scrutiny, since it has a public trust function to protect consumers and regulate the building industry. But no, the oversight model is one of the most lenient in your government. For scandal-weary Ontarians, its odd you’ve taken no pre-emptive action to bring accountability and transparency to Tarion.
Premier Wynne, you were recently quoted in the media (17/04/2015, National Post) saying “the days of monopoly are done“. Why is the Tarion monopoly an exception? Monopolies are known to be poor providers of services, since they have no competition and no incentive to improve. In Tarion’s case, it’s also worrying that powerful building lobbies like the OHBA continue to have a major influence on policy-making, with eight builders appointed to the board, and one major builder recently appointed Chair. This is asking the public “trust us”, trust the building industry to basically self-police. When asked to vote for protecting their own profits or protecting consumers, which do you think builders will chose?
Builders and Tarion senior executives seem content with the status quo. No one knows what either you or your Minister think, since Tarion seems to be in a no-reply zone.
Politicians will always sing their own praises when the media spotlight is upon them, as both you and Minister Orazietti have recently done. Premier Wynne, your conflict resolution skills were recently commended in the Toronto Star (06/05/2015), and Minister Oraziettti’s interest in consumer feedback was also featured (02/12/2015), Toronto Star). But reputations are built on actions, not words. So far consumers have seen neither.
We are baffled that you and the Minister responsible for Tarion do not even respond to consumer concerns about this monopoly. To read some of the letters written to you from consumers freezing in their newly-built homes, suffering long complex court battles with Tarion, or trying to get compensation for Ontario Building Code defects, it would have to be someone with a very hard heart who could ignore these troubling stories. The human cost of inaction on Tarion has been made abundantly clear to you, and the problem is urgent.
Your party’s stonewalling on legislation like Bill 60 to reform Tarion seems to favour the interests and privileges of the building industry above the interests of the consumer. This can only be understood in the light of the generous political campaign contributions by the building industry, and its cozy connections to power and politics in this province.
Premier Wynne, your government seems to have chosen political expediency over the public interest. It seems to me you’ve sold Ontario’s new home buyers down the river.