Parkdale property CEO nearly ran over protester at rent strike, tenants say
Tenants withholding rent to protest rent hikes, poor maintenance
Tenants involved in an ongoing rent strike in Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood say MetCap president and CEO Brent Merrill nearly ran over a protester on Tuesday.
Video of the incident shows a pickup truck accelerating into protester Kevin Laforest, who was forced to run backwards with his hands on the hood of the vehicle.
Speaking to CBC Toronto Wednesday, Merrill called the confrontation an 'unfortunate incident' and said he's apologized to Laforest.
"It was shocking, it was violent and unnecessary," said Barb Livstay, a tenant taking part in the strike over rent hikes and disrepair.
- 'Shame!': Parkdale tenants protest rent increases by MetCap Living Management
On Tuesday, protesters were attempting to deliver a letter to their property manager requesting that an elderly couple be put up in a motel for two nights while their unit undergoes repairs.
"I got in front of the truck to try to have that conversation to say, 'There is no need for us to run away, we can get this resolved today.' They didn't feel that way and then I think things escalated quickly and fortunately nobody was hurt," Laforest told CBC Toronto.
The property manager ran away, hopped into Merrill's truck and the two sped off, according to witnesses.
"Knowing that the CEO of our building was behind the wheel, that's just outrageous," Livstay said.
Merrill wants to 'set things straight' with tenants
Merrill told CBC Toronto he can't talk about Tuesday's incident, but did say he spoke to Laforest.
"I have reached out to Kevin Laforest and offered him an apology for that unfortunate incident that happened yesterday. I believe he has accepted my apology," Merrill said.
"We had some further discussion about one of the residents that he's trying to help there and we're trying to work together on it and we had a few conversations today on how we are going to work with him and this resident to set things straight with them all,"he said.
Toronto Police were investigating the incident, but have told CBC Toronto no charges will be laid.
Month-long rent strike
Some tenants are withholding rent after MetCap Living Inc. — which operates 11 buildings in the Parkdale area — proposed rent increases above the rate of inflation at five properties.
People on fixed-incomes like Livstay say the hike will make it hard to pay rent.
The strikers are also calling out MetCap for what they say is a general state of disrepair in the buildings. Tenants are complaining of mice and cockroaches in the units as well.
The month-long protest has heightened tensions between management and tenants, said Cole Webber of the Parkdale Legal Clinic, which is advising the tenants.
He called Tuesday's incident "a clear case of retaliation by MetCap against the rent strike."
Webber says the demands for MetCap to rescind the rent increases, make repairs and pay for the elderly couple's motel still stand.
"The rent strikers are going to keep moving forward and if anything this is just going to make them stronger," he said.