Sept., 14, 2006, Times Colonist (Victoria) by Peter O’Neil
Ottawa backtracks on leaky-condo review promise
The federal government has shelved its election promise to review Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s role and potential culpability in B.C.'s $1.5-billion leaky condo crisis, according to a letter sent by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley to a homeowners group.
Finley said the promise, made in Victoria by then-Conservative Leader Stephen Harper Dec. 17, can't be fulfilled because of court actions launched against CMHC, a federal agency.
CMHC, according to internal documents obtained by Tory MP John Cummins last year, was aware in the early 1980s that new federal building regulations could lead to severe damage to homes in coastal areas.
"As I'm sure you can appreciate, it would not be appropriate for me to comment or to consider initiating a review into leaky-condo issues while these matters are before the courts," Finley wrote to Consumer Advocacy and Support for Homeowners (CASH), which is seeking compensation for the thousands of B.C. residents whose homes and property values were devastated by moisture damage.
CASH president Carmen Maretic, in a letter sent Wednesday to Harper and Finley, said the Tories "knew or should have known" at the time of the campaign promise about a lawsuit filed against CMHC in B.C. on Dec. 6, 2005.
Critics have also noted that CMHC has been named in more than 30 other ongoing lawsuits. Former Liberal housing minister Joe Fontana and former Liberal industry minister David Emerson, now Tory trade minister, stated publicly in mid-2005 that the government couldn't comment on CMHC's role in the crisis because the issue was before the courts.
"Minister Finley's response is unacceptable to British Columbians [voters], leaky-condo owners and our organization," Meretic wrote.
"The Conservative government must understand the suffering of the leaky-condo victims, and the number of people who yet again will be re-victimized by a lack of accountability and by broken promises by your government."
Harper, in a sweeping "Stand up for B.C." election platform unveiled on Dec. 17, promised to "review CMHC's handling of construction regulations and 'leaky condos.'"
In an interview with after the announcement, Harper said he'd consider compensation for condo owners following the review.
Cummins (Delta-Richmond East), who was travelling to Ottawa Wednesday and couldn't be reached, asked Finley shortly after the January election to establish a public inquiry to look into the culpability of CMHC and the National Research Council, which conducted research in the early 1980s into who is responsible for the National Building Code.
Cummins subsequently asked the Library of Parliament to research options for the Harper government to fulfil the "review" promise. The subsequent report, released in April, said a formal public inquiry would be the "best choice" to look into CMHC's "possible role" in the condo crisis.
CASH estimates that the crisis, which emerged in the 1990s, has resulted in more than 65,000 homes being damaged by moisture and the buildup of mould and fungi. The non-profit society's website (http://www.cashsociety.net/) includes links to the early-1980s documents that allegedly suggest the federal government's culpability.