Minister Margarett Best addresses the condo residents' panel.

While prorogation has brought legislative business at Queen’s Park to a screeching halt (and which helpfully killed Bills 72 and 95 that would amend the Condo Act in weird ways), readers will be glad to know that Ontario’s Condominium Act review and modernization process is steaming ahead.

At the cornerstone of this review process is the concept of collaborative public engagement, which is intended to solicit broad and direct input from citizens and the various stakeholders affected by the Condo Act. An important part of that process is the specially-chosen condo residents’ panel formed to discuss issues related to the Condo Act and provide advice on how to improve it. Panellists will work alongside a round-table of other condominium stakeholders to agree on a set of priority proposals for changing the Act.

From ten thousand randomly-selected Ontario condo dwellers who were initially invited to join the condo residents’ panel, 36 members were ultimately selected to achieve a balance of age, gender, geography, the number of years they have lived in a condominium, and the type of condo in which they live.

That panel convened for the first time this past weekend, on a wet, dreary Saturday in Toronto. They will meet for another three full days over the next month.

Part of the panel’s deliberations includes short visits by experts invited to speak and answer questions on selected issues within the five key focus areas, being:

  • consumer protection for buyers
  • condominium board governance
  • dispute resolution
  • condominium finances and reserve fund management
  • expertise/accreditation of condominium managers

As luck would have it, I was one of three experts who met the residents’ panel to talk about  consumer protection for condo buyers. It was a short but enjoyable and memorable gig.

When asked by the session moderator (while introducing your humble scribe), about one-quarter of the panellists indicated that they knew of or had visited the Ontario Condo Law Blog. It is always nice to walk into a room of fans, but it was even more encouraging to watch the citizen panellists at work just before our group’s session, and to see them working together, opening their minds and gathering information, different viewpoints and sharing their experience and opinions.

Judging from their reactions, questions and comments to us visiting experts, the residents’ panel was clearly enthusiastic and highly-engaged. Hopefully the panellists found our input educational, but I found that hearing their ideas and thought processes was particularly enlightening.

Hats off to the citizens on this condo residents’ panel for volunteering their time to participate in this important process with such enthusiasm, and to listen and share their views. We are looking forward to seeing their conclusions as part of the “findings report” now planned for release in early 2013. Kudos also to the people from Public Policy Forum for putting together an impressive piece of public engagement work that was both fun and fascinating to witness and be part of.

There are lots of ways for Ontarians to participate in the Condo Act review process.  Get involved today.

Photo credit: @BryanLeblanc