My name is Robert Levitt. I run the Ontario Tenants Rights web site http://www.ontariotenants.ca.
I am not a professional lobbyist, a member of any political party or group, nor am I funded by government, and so I have no reason to water down my message. I am a citizen and a tenant and am concerned with what these hearings demonstrate about our weakening democracy.
I am sharing my very limited time with Mr. Dale Ritch, to afford him the opportunity to discuss the specifics of Bill 109, a right the government is making available to few.
My recommendation to this committee is to postpone Third Reading of the Act, and in the meantime to immediately by, Order in Council, change existing regulations to put a stop to default eviction orders.
The government needs to stop their time allocations in the Legislature on this Act that are meant to stifle debate and due consideration of the impacts of this law, and hold full, proper and recorded committee hearings throughout Ontario in August and/or September.
It took the government 2 years to write this legislation, now give citizens and this committee an extra 3 months to analyze its impacts on Ontario's 4 million tenants.
2 years ago the government held town hall meetings, but those were mostly about the previous government's law and its' flaws. None of this is on the public record; It was not done through this committee and so never recorded in Hansard.
The government also did an online consultation in 2004, but they set all the parameters. The government selected the background information people should read before they answered the questionnaire. The government selected the questions. And the government selected the answers people had to choose between.
The most egregious example of the government's biased survey was Question 6, "In your opinion, how high should a region's vacancy rate be before the government looks at removing rent controls?"
The only choices provided were:
"a) 3 per cent
b) Higher than 3 per cent, or
c) No opinion/don't know"
They never provided the choice that tenants' might never want rent controls removed, ever.
The government's online consultation was merely a manipulative public relations scheme.
It is clear that since they could not eliminate what little rent controls that remain using the excuse of vacancy rates, they have chosen to continue Vacancy Decontrol, as a means to eliminate what few affordable apartments that remain.
Now I will get to the crux of my concerns about the process and the lack of adequate fair public hearings into the new Residential Tenancies Act.
The problems with the government's process can be best summed up by quoting a complaint already submitted to this committee 10 years ago, from page 4 of the Liberal Dissenting Report on Rent Control Consultations, September 21, 1996.
"Liberal members of the committee and many presenters were frustrated that the very limited time (20 minutes) allowed to each group permitted very little opportunity for dialogue or discussion. It was also unfortunate that the over 400 groups that applied to appear before the committee, there was only adequate time to allow for 260 presentations."
You can find this report in its entirely on my web site at http://www.ontariotenants.ca/government/liberal1996.phtml. I am sure the over 1700 average daily visitors to my site will find it interesting.
In 1996, the Harris government held Hansard recorded meetings of this committee on their tenant discussion paper, hearing 260 deputants over more than 80 hours. These were the hearings the Liberal report castigated them for, because they only gave each deputant 20 minutes.
In 2004, the McGuinty government held town hall meetings outside of this committee, giving each deputant only 5 minutes, with no public record of what was ever said.
In 1997 the Harris government held hearings on Bill 96, in 7 cities over 49 hours, hearing some 140 deputations, giving each organization 20 minutes and each individual 15.
This compares with now, in 2006, the Liberal government is holding hearings on their Bill 109 in only 1 city, listening to 49 deputants for only 8 hours, giving each only 10 minutes.
It appears that the McGuinty government is far more guilty of the very accusations they made against their predecessors.
Why the sudden rush to get this law passed after all this time? What is the government afraid of? And why the lack of proper recorded consultations with sufficient deputation time based upon the government's own publicly demanded criteria?
Page 7 of the Liberal 1996 report states, "Vacancy Decontrol hits some of the most vulnerable tenants - seniors, the poor, the disabled, students and the unemployed seeking new work."
Now they support Vacancy Decontrol. Does this mean the McGuinty caucus no longer cares for seniors, the poor, disabled, students and the unemployed?
In 1996, the Liberal party in opposition argued that Vacancy Decontrol would not create new rental housing, but now that the Honorable John Gerretsen is the Minister of Housing, they say that it will.
The Liberal party complained that the previous regime failed to "thoroughly research the impact of their proposed policies", but what such research has the present government commissioned to support their policies?
Reconsider this legislation, particularly in the areas of vacancy decontrol, landlord entry into apartments and the forced installation of smart meters.
Tenants want real rent controls, but most of all we want honesty in government, not spin.