Ottawa

Details scarce on Tarion's successor

The head of the new organization tasked with replacing Tarion says he plans to take the auditor general's scathing criticism into account as he overhauls the province's home-building industry, but critics still have their doubts anything will change.

Province replacing home-building industry regulator with new authority

If designated, the Home Construction Regulatory Authority would be responsible for reforming the way home builders are governed in Ontario. (CBC)

The head of the new organization tasked with replacing Tarion says he plans to take the auditor general's scathing criticism into account as he overhauls the province's home-building industry, but critics still have their doubts anything will change.

Tarion, an arms-length government agency that regulates the industry and is supposed to ensure builders honour their warranties, has come under fire from homeowners and their advocates, the government and most recently, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, who characterized Tarion's relationship with builders as far too close for comfort.

The government has proposed stripping Tarion of its regulatory duties and handing them over to a newly formed agency: The Home Construction Regulatory Authority (HCRA).

"We've read the auditor general's report with great interest," said Tim Hadwen, HCRA's interim CEO. "We're taking the auditor's recommendations fully into account as we go about our work of getting ready."

Lysyk found a slew of issues with the way those builders were regulated, including that the Ontario Home Builders Association "had disproportionate influence over Tarion's decisions and operations."

Tim Hadwen is interim CEO of the Home Construction Regulatory Authority. (Supplied)

How HCRA will specifically avoid the same pitfalls has yet to be explained, and Hadwen referred questions about any such details to the ministry of consumer services.

Consumer Services Minister Lisa Thompson declined CBC's request for an interview, but earlier this year she said HCRA would be a not-for-profit corporation with amandate to regulate the home-building industry.

Former PC caucus member Randy Hillier said the lack of information makes it difficult to see how the new agency will be any better than Tarion.

"We know in very broad understanding that it's there to regulate the home builders, but I don't think there's any more detail to that entity than that," said Hillier, who now sits in the Ontario Legislature as an independent.

"How do you examine something that's being kept hidden?"

Administrative authority 

Hadwen said he's focused on putting the systems in place that will allow HCRA to take over regulation of the home-building industry when the province feels the new agency is ready.

The HCRA board of directors was appointed last spring and includes two members of the home-building industry who were commissioned after consultation with the Ontario Home Builders' Association. One of them also served on Tarion's board of directors. 

The rest appear to be former high-ranking public servants, along with one current executive for the Kraft Heinz Corporation. None appears to have a background in consumer protection.

Randy Hillier is a former member of the provincial PC caucus who currently sits in the legislature as an independent. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

During his time in the PC caucus, Hillier said there was consensus that administrative authorities like Tarion should be disbanded because they lack proper oversight.

He said he was surprised to learn that not only does the government not intend to disband Tarion, it plans to designate HCRA as a new authority.

There's been some good tinkering, but very minor tinkering.- MPP Randy Hillier

"We actually have the law on our side to advocate for and make changes," he said. "We don't have that with the delegated administrative authorities. There is no mechanism for members of the legislative assembly to bring that problem ... and find a remedy."

NDP leader Andrea Horwath recently called for the Tarion board to be fired while the home warranty system is overhauled.

Both Horwath and Hillier accuse the government of not moving fast enough to protect homebuyers from a few bad builders in the province. 

"There's been some good tinkering, but very minor tinkering," Hillier said. 

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