Ontario Eviction Ban Ending Will Intensify Housing Crisis: NDP

The Ontario NDP pleaded Friday for the Ford government to extend a pandemic-related ban on rental evictions that is due to expire on the weekend as critics fear a looming expansion of Toronto’s housing crisis.

“It is the eleventh hour,” NDP tenant rights critic Suze Morrison said. “Either he (Premier Doug Ford) changes course today, or the evictions start tomorrow.”

Advocates warn lifting the moratorium on hearings at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) will lead to a massive wave of evictions and allow developers and corporate landlords to hike rental rates — especially in Toronto where demand is strong and supply is tight — after Ford previously removed rent control on vacated sites.

It won’t be quite as quick as Morrison suggests; eviction orders that were in process before the pandemic will now be acted on, and non-urgent eviction hearings will start in mid-August, Tribunals Ontario said this week.

But whether it is tomorrow or some time in August, the body responsible for ordering a sheriff to remove someone’s belongings from their home in Ontario will soon be considering the cases of tens of thousands of people who lost work when COVID-19 shuttered the economy.

The CN Tower can be seen behind condos in Toronto's Liberty Village community in Toronto, Ontario on April 25, 2017. As rent cheques come due, some are warning that Ontarians should prepare for a wave of evictions now that protections put in place earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted.

“People who have never missed a rent payment or car payment in their entire lives are now terrified of being evicted,” Morrison said.

The province has not offered renters any specific assistance since March, when restrictions on social interactions led to the loss of large numbers of retail and hospitality jobs, and the federal assistance available does not cover an average Toronto rent.

Younger renters are particularly vulnerable to eviction given many are employed in precarious or part-time work that has been lost to the pandemic and related shutdowns.

“It’s the responsibility of the province to step up and make sure that folks are able to stay housed... and instead the premier rolled out an eviction bill to make it easier for landlords to throw people out on the streets,” Morrison said.

Morrison is referring to Bill 184, a housing bill that Ford and his government introduced to the legislature near the start of the pandemic and toughened along the way. She and other critics say the bill makes it easier for landlords to bully tenants into signing bad repayment plans during the pandemic and then evict them without a hearing.

Spokespeople for the premier and Housing Minister Steve Clark did not respond when asked if they would extend the moratorium or put a direct support plan in place for renters unable to make full payments because COVID-19 stripped them of income.

Trying to slow process

Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association, said tenant advocates were fighting to slow the process and protect renters’ rights on a number of fronts.

He said some were pushing the attorney general’s office to create guidelines for the LTB to follow, and others were focused on efforts to convince Toronto’s mayor to use emergency powers to stay evictions in the city.

The City of Toronto voted on Wednesday to challenge Bill 184, arguing that it breaches rules around “procedural fairness and natural justice.”

“We’re mostly trying to push the government on financial support, or to mimic B.C.’s plan to mandate long repayment plans for a year,” Dent said.

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British Columbia has been providing rental relief of between $300 to $500 a month directly to landlords and is requiring landlords work out rent repayment agreements that span a reasonable period of time.

The Landlord and Tenant Board is gradually resuming services in August, Tribunals Ontario said in an emailed response to questions.

Tribunals Ontario said on Thursday that the LTB would begin issuing pending eviction orders starting Aug. 1, and begin to schedule hearings for non-urgent evictions for mid-August and into the fall.

Spokesperson Rebecca Ganesathas was not immediately able to say how many L1 (non-payment of rent) eviction applications the board had received since the moratorium.

In April, the last month the LTB had provided data, the board had received 1,405 such applications. That was down from the roughly 2,500 to 3,000 range seen in the previous two months and the equivalent three-month period a year ago.

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Political parties comparing election year highs to pandemic lows to justify wage subsidy
OTTAWA – Some of the political parties claiming the federal government’s wage subsidy are comparing their lows of 2020 to election-year highs of 2019 in order to justify getting the taxpayer cash to pay their employees. The Liberals, Conservatives, Greens and NDP all claimed the Canada Emergency Wage subsidy (CEWS), citing major drops in donations due to the pandemic. But financial reports released last week show the drops aren’t that unusual, as parties often take in less money when an election isn’t on the horizon. According to the Elections Canada filings, the NDP took in $1.3 million in donations in the second quarter of 2020, which encompasses April, May and June, the same time frame as the initial federal wage subsidy. In 2019, the party took in $1.4 million, meaning their revenues were only slightly lower than they were a year ago. The federal wage subsidy requires employers to show a 30 per cent drop in revenues to qualify for the taxpayer money to supplement up to 75 per cent of their payroll. The NDP’s national director Anne McGrath said the wage subsidy is about helping workers stay employed, which is exactly what they are doing with it. “This program isn’t about any one business or organization. It’s about making sure that workers are able to keep their jobs during these tough times,” she said in an email to the National Post. “Our numbers are still clearly down from where they would otherwise have been and all of our staff have been able to keep their jobs and keep providing for their families.” Party officials said despite the results for the end of the quarter, donations dropped considerably in the early months of the pandemic, but rebounded later, which they attribute to the party’s performance in the House of Commons. As Trudeau defends political parties using wage subsidy, Tory leadership hopefuls slam their own party Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats all apply for COVID-19 wage subsidy to pay their workers Parties normally take in more money in an election year and the NDP is no different. The $1.3 million they brought in during the pandemic in 2020 is actually higher than the roughly $872,000 they collected in the same time frame in 2018. The Liberals saw their revenues fall by roughly half this year after bringing in $5 million in the second quarter of 2019, just ahead of the fall campaign. They brought in $2.6 million this year. But when that $2.6 million is compared with the $3.1 million they received in 2018, a non-election year, it’s a much smaller drop, not enough to qualify for the wage subsidy. According to the party, the Liberals have received $842,856 in financial assistance, helping cover the salaries of more than 80 people. “The party has not been forced to lay anyone off due to the impacts of COVID-19 at this time, which ensures that team members like translators, IT professionals, and local field organizers can continue to support vital democratic engagement work and their own families through this difficult time,” said Braeden Caley in an email to the Post . The party has suspended in-person events and said March and April were its lowest months for donations since 2014. The Green Party would also be unlikely to qualify for the wage subsidy if their 2020 totals were compared against a normal year instead of an election year. The party raised $626,000 in the second quarter of 2020, down from the same time in 2019 when they raised $1.4 million, but actually higher than the $572,000 they garnered in 2018. Rosie Emery, the party’s press secretary, said they stopped taking the subsidy in July, but the party intends to keep an eye on donations in case there is a drop. “We will continue to monitor our revenues from month to month, and are open to applying again if we are eligible.” The Conservatives are the only party who would have been eligible for the subsidy if their donations were compared to a non-election year. The party took in $3.5 million in the second quarter of this year, compared with $8.5 million in 2019 and $6 million in 2018. The Conservatives are currently in a leadership race, an event that normally siphons funds away from a party’s main operations, with dollars now going to leadership contenders Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan. In the second quarter of 2017, when the party’s last leadership race was underway it raised $4 million. This year’s total is a historic low for the Conservative party, and spokesperson Cory Hann said the wage subsidy has allowed them to cover approximately 60 full-time and part-time total staff across Canada during a difficult time. The eligibility spanned from March 15th until July 4th, and Hann said the party hasn’t yet decided if it will apply again. “No decision has been taken yet whether we will re-apply – the timing of the next application isn’t for several more weeks.” Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said this is further proof political parties should not have been eligible for the wage subsidy. “I don’t think anyone envisioned when they came up with this program that it was for political parties,” he said. He said they also shouldn’t be basing their eligibility by comparing revenue declines this year to 2019. “Everyone knows, and it has always been historically the case, that parties raise more money in an election year.” Parties receive rebates on election campaign expenses and political donations are eligible for generous tax write-offs, Wudrick said. “They are already subsidized up the wazoo and yet now they are coming back for another form of subsidy,” he said. “It does not seem reasonable to me that they wouldn’t have the resources to tie themselves over for six months.” • Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter: ryantumilty
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