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Ontario Hansard - 16-September2015

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, thank you for bringing attention to this important chapter that I’m about to reveal. We’re talking about condominiums, and I live in the riding of Nipissing. My hometown is North Bay. As I said, the minister talked about one in 10 Ontarians living in a condo. Primarily we’re talking about the GTA, perhaps Ottawa, London and some other communities, but I will say that we have condos in North Bay. So my point here, the very point that I make, is that there is a vast difference. When you’ve got such an intense concentration of condos in the GTA or in some of the other large urban centres, this need for these managers with accreditations and training is extremely important and valuable, but the point I want to make is that we have issues in northern and rural Ontario, where there are some condos, that are very unique to owners outside of the GTA.

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I’m going to just give an example of some previous legislation that I think brings home this very point. Again, back in the day, when I was mayor of the city of North Bay, the strong communities act came across our desk. By the very title, you would think that this was going to be good for all communities, but again, it was a Toronto-centric problem that the government created a large solution for that ended up hurting others. This is what I want to bring to this condo change here: that we need to make certain that the rules that are put in place don’t adversely affect the small communities that have one or two condo buildings in their entire community.

That strong communities act, for instance, acknowledged a very important issue about wetlands in Toronto. There really aren’t a lot of wetlands down around Bay Street and University Avenue. We understand that; we get that. So the solution was that any wetlands that are found in Ontario must not be sold and used for development, and we get that. That’s so important. That’s how we filter our water, through the wetlands, and we understand that it’s important. Except in the old days, in northern Ontario, you were allowed to build on a wetland if you created an equal-sized wetland elsewhere—very practical. It was a common practice and, in fact, it was our law. But this Toronto-centric solution that came across wiped out all that.

As you’ve heard me say in this Legislature before, we now have a 112-acre, $40-million industrial park in North Bay that can no longer be built on. Sewer, water, roads, fire hydrants, high-speed Internet: It’s all there, but we can’t build on it, because a law was changed to solve an important problem in Toronto, but it was pan-Ontario, so the north got sucked into that vortex and it was one set of cookie cutter rules. My point is, let’s make sure that the legislation reflects the unique issues that affect condo owners in northern and rural Ontario. That’s the point I make with that.

In 2012, the government began its Condominium Act review, which was a three-stage public engagement process aimed at modernizing the legislation. This was in response to growing concerns from condo owners and managers, again, primarily in the urban centres. The key issues identified in this review include governance, dispute resolution, financial management, consumer protection and condominium manager qualifications.

A little bit of other background worth noting: The bill has the support of the Canadian Condominium Institute. Here’s an excerpt from their release—I like to look at a balanced approach to the discussion. The CCI is speaking about Bill 106, the Protecting Condominium Owners Act. They look at the changes in Bill 106, including “establishing mandatory licensing of condo managers and strengthening financial management rules for condo corporations to help prevent fraud and mismanagement.

“The Ontario caucus of CCI, a national, independent, non-profit body dealing exclusively with condominium issues, has been among those pushing for legislative reform in Ontario for more than a decade. CCI members played an active role in the” consultations and the working panels over the last two and a half years.

So, it truly was a red-letter day, especially for those in the urban centres, when the Minister of Government and Consumer Services did introduce the bill and it was given first reading and passed. The proposed legislation includes mandatory education for condominium directors.

The current chair of the CCI stated, “The Canadian Condominium Institute has been front and centre in providing director education since 1982 and we anticipate that despite mandatory education being offered through a newly formed condo authority, CCI will continue to be a long-term source of ongoing training for directors."

“The CCI ... caucus appreciates” the fact that “the government did not introduce a new Condominium Act” but amended the present one. These are comments I’m sharing from them. They look forward to the changes, among them, “off-budget spending whereby a condominium board would have to notify owners if it had proposed an expense exceeding the budgeted amount by more than a set margin.” Interesting.

They believe that “transparent financial management is the foundation of a successful condominium corporation and community.” Of course, I would agree with a statement like that, thinking, of course, that that is also what you would look for from a government.

Their legal firm, Gowlings, provided the analysis regarding the planned establishment of a new condominium authority and a new tribunal. They noted that the new condominium authority and tribunal “are required to be self-financed. Some of the financing is expected to be generated by the users who would be required to pay certain fees. The details of how these new entities would be financed have yet to be hashed out through” this legislation.

I think that’s kind of one of the important aspects of being able to have a discussion in this Legislature and not truncate any discussion. It’s also important to be able to have these in committee to be able to discuss that at that point as well. We’re looking forward to a thoughtful and fulsome debate in the Legislature about the various aspects.

“The condominium authority is also expected to be able to levy fees from all condominium owners. A number that seems to be floating around is the suggestion that condominium owners would pay $1 per unit, per month to finance this authority. Assuming ... there are 700,000 condominium units in Ontario,” we’re talking about “$8.4 million dollars” a year. “Just as a point of comparison, the budget for the Landlord and Tenant Board exceeds $30 million.... We may have a far way to go.”

This is why I questioned earlier that estimate of a dollar. It’s fine to have a starting point, but I wouldn’t want anybody to take that figure literally to the bank.

“It appears that the proposed Condominium Authority Tribunal has not been granted jurisdiction to rule over dispute between corporations and property managers. If the province is planning on creating such a specialized tribunal, it may have made sense to also grant it authority to rule over these kinds of disputes.”

That’s why we have these debates. That’s why we don’t want to see these debates truncated. These are ideas that I’m truly hoping the government is noting and can comment on.

Gowlings also had this to say regarding new requirements for condo directors: “Bill 106 proposes to impose mandatory training on all directors. It is not clear at this stage what training would be required, who would provide such training and how frequently such training would have to take place. It is not clear either whether individuals who have already attended” CCI’s director’s courses “would be exempt from this ... requirement.”

“Directors would” also “be required to proceed with a certain level of disclosure. We will have to wait for the adoption of regulations to know exactly what directors will be required to disclose.”

Now, Gowlings also speaks about changes to repair and maintenance obligations: “One of the most important proposed changes to the legislation, in my view, is that the responsibility to repair a unit after damage will no longer fall to the corporation (unless the declaration provides otherwise). The responsibility and the cost of repairing units after damage would be shifted back on to each owner.

“In my view, this is a welcomed change, which will simplify greatly many matters including issues surrounding insurance.”

Others may not see it that way.

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This is why we need these 20-minute opportunities to bring this out, so we can have an intelligent discourse back and forth to talk about these various points. I’m hoping in the two- minute hits that we’ll hear some thoughts about these.

The proposed act does not appear to make this change retroactive—another point that needs to be debated. It may be a problem as many corporations have had their declaration drafted under the current or prior legislation. So for this reason, many of the existing declarations imposed on corporations the obligation to repair a unit after damage. At the time of incorporation, this language was simply reflecting the legislation in place. By not making the proposed change retroactive, many existing corporations may still be responsible to repair old units after the damage simply because their old declaration says so.

I’ve also seen concerns expressed by some about whether all of this legislation will ever be proclaimed into force or whether some of the regulations necessary to give teeth will ever be enacted. It’s always a concern. We’ve seen other bills come, get debated, get through and get passed but never be enacted. There are still many on the books, and that’s a concern. As I said, there’s precedent for that. It’s worth noting that it’s a concern that has been expressed amongst stakeholders, and the government should be aware of it.

In conclusion, it has taken a long time to introduce this legislation, but I’m hoping the government has indeed used their time effectively, put forward legislation that will fix the problems and, hopefully, they’ll listen to all of us as we take our time to bring new ideas, question some of it and use that effectively, Speaker. I thank you very much for the opportunity to rise.


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