It was the condominium-sized elephant in the room at the Condo Conference, an annual two-day event co-hosted by the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario (ACMO) and the Canadian Condominium Institute’s Toronto chapter (CCI-T).
David Orazietti, the new Minister of Government and Consumer Services, acknowledged as much. Stakeholders, he said, want to know: When is the new Ontario Condominium Act coming?
Orazietti’s answer, in a pre-recorded video speech, was: “soon, very soon.”
“However,” he added, “myself, my office, my parliamentary assistant and my ministry are fully invested in turning that soon into now.”
Min. Orazietti sent his regrets for being unable to attend the Condo Conference in person, due to an event commitment in his Sault Ste. Marie riding. His parliamentary secretary, Chris Ballard, MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, was on hand at the Toronto Congress Centre to introduce the minister’s pre-recorded video speech to conference attendees on Nov. 7.
In his approximately 10-minute message, Orazietti offered brief glimpses of what stakeholders can expect to see when modernized legislation is introduced at Queen’s Park.
One of the Ontario government’s priorities, he said, is exploring the establishment of an organization for professionally licensed managers. That reinforces the government’s previously announced commitment to introducing mandatory qualifications for entry to and practice in the profession.
Orazietti also identified as priorities modernizing reserve-fund rules, providing a dispute-resolution system that will help spare owners from expensive court battles, and protecting owners from hidden costs by clarifying rules for developers.
The minister spoke of the need to balance consumer and business interests, pointing out that consumer confidence is good for the commercial market and economy.
“We need to ensure that Ontarians can feel secure in purchasing a condo, and we need to make sure measures are in place to support industry’s growth in this sector,” he said. “We need to ensure that as the sector grows, it develops and matures into one built on professionalism.”
With the three-stage Condominium Act review complete, the government is now working with three different expert groups to fine-tune the specifics of the legislation. Those specifics include key issues around reserve funds, the licensing of condo managers and insurance for condo corporations and managers.
“Ontario needs and deserves condo legislation that can stand the test of time,” Orazietti said.
The minister sought to reassure stakeholders that the modernization of the Condominium Act remains a high priority for the government, as highlighted in the Ontario Liberals’ spring election platform and recent post-election mandate letters.
Adding to the urgency of the legislative overhaul, Orazietti said, is the rapid and continuing growth of the province’s condo sector. He noted that condo units now represent 50 per cent of new home sales, and that the province is projected to be home to 800,000 condo units by 2017.
“Nobody knows better than ACMO and CCI that the sheer size of Ontario’s condominium sector makes it imperative that we get this legislation right,” Orazietti said.
The minister thanked both ACMO and CCI for its contributions to the legislative review, giving a nod to those who served on the five issue-based working groups and the expert’s panel. The three-stage review, which took place over a two-year period, was a completely new, “highly collaborative” consultation process for the province, he said.
In stage one, the government solicited input from stakeholders and identified five key themes: governance, dispute resolution, finances, consumer protection and condo management. In stage two, working groups were assigned to each of the five themes, and then an expert’s panel reviewed all comments and working group proposals and reported back to the government with more than 200 recommendations. In stage three, the government returned to stakeholders to solicit their feedback on the recommendations.
In total, the government received more than 2,200 submissions from stakeholders including condo developers, managers and residents.
“We’ve heard your concerns and are diligently working to get this process complete,” Orazietti said.
Michelle Ervin is the editor of CondoBusiness magazine.