How the courts see the Condominium Act

Harvey v. Talon International Inc
Court of Appeal for Ontario
Docket: C61696; C61697
Heard:  Blair, Epstein and Huscroft JJ.A.
Date:  31 March 2017

This appeal dealt with purchasers of units at the Toronto Trump Tower and Residents wanting their deposits back. They were successful and the developer lost this appeal.

I want to focus on how the Appeals Court sees the Condominium Act. It is legislation designed to protect consumers (owners).

Paragraph 62
The fact that the (Condominium) Act is consumer protection legislation is well established. In Ward-Price v. Mariners Havens Inc. (2001), 2001 CanLII 24088 (ON CA), 57 O.R. (3d) 410 (C.A.), at para. 53,
Borins J.A. stated that:
“it is well recognized that the Act is consumer protection legislation”

 More recently, in Lexington on the Green Inc. v. Toronto Standard Condominium Corp. No. 1930, 2010 ONCA 751 (CanLII), 102 O.R. (3d) 737, at para. 49, O’Connor A.C.J.O. stated that:
“a significant purpose of the Act is consumer protection”.

 Rouleau J.A. cited this case in Toronto Standard Condominium Corp. No. 2095 v. West Harbour City (I) Residences Corp., 2014 ONCA 724 (CanLII), when he acknowledged that:
“consumer protection is a significant purpose of the Condominium Act”.

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The goal of consumer protection laws is to place consumers, who are average citizens engaging in business deals, on par with companies or citizens who regularly engage in business. This Court and the Supreme Court have identified guidelines for how consumer protection legislation is to be interpreted.

The application judge referred to Seidel v. Telus Communications Inc., 2011 SCC 15 (CanLII), [2011] 1 S.C.R. 531, for the proposition that consumer protection legislation must be interpreted generously in favour of the consumer.

This proposition comes directly from Binnie J., who was considering the British Columbia Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (the “BCPCA”). At para. 37, he noted that
the statutory purpose of the BCPCA was all about consumer protection. As such, its terms should be interpreted generously in favour of consumers.

Another relevant Supreme Court case is Celgane Corp v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 1 (CanLII), [2011] 1 S.C.R. 3. In that case, the Court was considering the Federal Court’s interpretation of a price-regulating provision in the Patent Act.

Abella J. adopted the majority view of Evans J.A., who had held that because the provision could be interpreted in different ways, the one that best implemented the consumer protection objectives of such price-regulating provisions was the correct interpretation.

Paragraph 64
There is similar authority emanating from Ontario courts. In Weller v. Reliance Home Comfort Ltd. Partnership, 2012 ONCA 360 (CanLII), 110 O.R. (3d) 743, at para. 15.
Rosenberg J.A. noted that “the main objective of consumer protection legislation… is to protect consumers”.

In Wilson v. Semon, 2011 CarswellOnt 15953 (S.C.), aff’d Wilson v. Semon, 2012 ONCA 558 (CanLII),
Lederer J. noted that “consumer protection legislation, as its name implies, is designed to protect consumers”.

How does this help owners?
This helps the owners, as in this case, when they have a dispute with the developer. It is also a big help when the owners want to examine the condo corporation's documents. After all, how can an owner be an informed consumer if they are not allowed to read the board minutes, financial statements, utility bills, fire inspection reports and other such documents.

It may not be so helpful in other disputes with the board because the board can claim that it speaks on behalf of the majority of the owners (consumers) while you just speak for yourself or for a small group.

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