As 2017 closes, I want to thank all the consumers and consumer advocates who’ve worked so tirelessly for years to get the Ontario new home warranty legislation fixed. Everyone has contributed in their own special way, based on time and resources available. You’ve made a big impact on getting this broken system fixed.
I once asked the Minister of Consumer Services this question: if building lobbyists and Tarion are looking after their own interests, who’s looking after the consumer’s? It seems no one. We expect government to do this, but in my 7-year experience, they seem to understand the builder’s/Tarion’s perspective better than the consumer’s. There are few bona fide consumer advocates at policy-making levels, or none at all. For years, builder lobby organizations, Tarion executives, some condo lawyers, and ministry officials have tried to tell us they’re all consumer advocates. About as credible as the fox saying he’s protecting the chicken coop.
2018 may present new opportunities for a new bill which actually, finally, protects consumers. If the current Liberal government is not re-elected in June 2018, there may be a chance to seriously amend bill 166 to include more of the judge’s review recommendations, or bring new legislation which is consumer-focused.
Premier Wynne, at her town hall meetings these last two months, has been driving the theme of “fairness”. However she seemed irritated by questions about Tarion, on Nov. 20 and Dec. 13. She side-stepped policy questions put to her, and responded with – I’ve already spoken to “you”, I’ve already answered this, we’ve fixed the problems, speak to my staff, …. next question. This deflection reinforces the impression there’s something to hide in how the new legislation was arrived at. Such as stacking the consultations in favour of the industry and Tarion, and limiting the scope of discussions to produce the government’s desired outcome.
If Premier Wynne is really concerned about fairness, why wouldn’t she appoint a corporate monitor at Tarion – right now – reporting to the ministry to oversee fairness in dispute resolution until the new legislation takes effect in 2020? Three more years of waiting is unfair to consumers suffering under the current system. The judge’s review cited conflicts of interest at Tarion, yet consumers are supposed to just grin and bear it until 2020, while paying for this mandatory warranty under Ontario law. Leaving consumers vulnerable with no one on their side is not fair. The government not taking immediate action to protect consumers, knowing full well the existing conflicts of interest, is doubly unfair, even irresponsible.
To all those of you who’ve attended town halls, the judge’s consultations, contacted or visited your MPPs, or joined discussions on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs, you’ve made a big impact this year. Thank you. If we can’t get our own home defects fixed, or have been gagged by non-disclosure agreements, we can still help family and friends who are the new home buyers of the future.
Bill 166 may not be final; its failure to protect consumers may not be fatal; your work and determination will help fix the problems. Thank you to all, and best wishes for a healthy, safe, and consumer-friendly 2018.
(Quotation from Winston Churchill)
In 2018, please join the discussion on my second Twitter account: @ONTConsmrRights