Ontario condo managers warned not to influence elections after investigator raises concerns about digital votes
One of Ontario’s provincial condo watchdogs says it’s going to tell condo managers to be impartial when running their board elections after it received a warning that features in digital condo votes made popular in the pandemic could compromise their integrity.
Condo investigator William Stratas says he felt he had to come forward after hearing of cases where condo managers could be using tools in online voting platforms to give tallies of advance polls to favoured candidates, giving them a tactical advantage.
“I believe these practices have the potential to compromise confidentiality and fairness in condominium board elections across Ontario,” Stratas wrote in a letter to the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario in December.
“In particular, I raise concerns about this apparent conduct by licensees who have a duty to act as trusted impartial facilitators — not potential manipulators — of owners’ meetings and board elections,” he wrote.
Digital platforms for voting and condo meetings have exploded during the pandemic as a solution for physical distancing requirements, and also as a way to overcome voter apathy.
There are about 900,000 condominium units in Ontario, and 11,000 condominium corporations — some with multi-million dollar budgets with populations that dwarf small towns. During condo elections, an owner can vote in advance by writing a proxy form. That process has been replicated digitally by several digital voting platforms.
Stratas said in an interview he is concerned that a rush into these platforms has overlooked a potential flaw that he says allows those advance digital proxy votes to be counted and shared too easily.
If the condo manager shares the vote tallies with an incumbent candidate, that candidate could campaign differently as a result of the information, or use their power on the board to some other purpose, he said.
“Compare this to a scenario where Elections Canada is going into the advance poll ballot boxes, counting those results ahead of election day and releasing that to the governing party. This is a scandal of epic proportions,” Stratas said.
Angel Reiner of property management firm Onyx Group told CTV News Toronto she received a request from an incumbent board member at one of her properties asking to see the advance tallies mid-election.
“We had a board member come forward and ask to have the election results ahead of the meeting,” she said. “He wanted a particular individual to not be successful in his candidacy. I sat with my team and said, ‘We’re not doing this, right’? They said, ‘Absolutely not.’”
One candidate for a condo board election in a Toronto condo told CTV News she wondered if advance tallies played a role in a decision by her board members to abruptly reschedule a condo election that had been planned for November.
Adele Miller had decided to stand for election in one of three condo corporations at CityPlace the same day she found out one incumbent board member, Howard Tsao, was facing disciplinary action from an investment regulator relating to the management of three condo corporations’ funds. She said she missed a deadline to be on a ballot but continued her campaign as a write-in candidate.
“This is my home, it’s an investment, I want to make sure we are running the building wisely,” Miller said in an interview. “I want to be on the board to provide more transparency to owners."
The investment industry’s self-regulator, IIROC, alleged in a notice of hearing that in June 2017, Howard Tsao was told by his employer, a branch of RBC Dominion Securities, that he could not both be the treasurer and board member for three condominium corporations while also being their registered representative, managing the condos’ investments.
Tsao did so anyway, the IIROC notice alleged, and was fired on February 20, 2020 “due to his misrepresentations.” The notice says he also didn’t respond to the IIROC investigation and accused him of failing to co-operate with their enforcement staff.
“The respondent earned $45,532 in fees for the accounts between September 2017 and December 2018 alone,” the notice of hearing reads.
Neither Tsao nor his lawyer responded to questions from CTV News Toronto. His lawyer appeared at a brief IIROC hearing in late 2021, indicating Tsao did not agree with the allegations. Tsao told owners in the building that he plans to fight the allegations.
“I dispute the allegations that have been made and intend to contest them. As an owner, I am fully committed to the condo corporation and would like to receive your continued support,” he wrote in a message to owners in November.
As the election proceeded, Miller said she had heard from supporters that despite being a write-in candidate, she was garnering support. But then the election was called off.
“Things were looking really good for me in terms of winning,” she said. “But they chose to delay until further notice.”
The condo management, Elite Property Management Inc, denied that the rescheduling of the meeting was intended to give any incumbent director an advantage.
“Actually quite the reverse,” said Tamara Byrne. “Howard Tsao was the only candidate to submit his nomination by the posted deadline. As per the Condo Act, only those candidates who submitted by the deadline were included in the AGM package. Subsequently, several individuals came forward intending to run, not just Ms. Miller. As such, the Board, in consultation with legal counsel, opted to reschedule the meeting so all candidates would have an equal election platform and to avoid allegations of any “incumbent advantage.””
The CityPlace condo and the condo managed by Reiner both use a digital voting platform called GetQuorum. That company confirmed to CTV New s Toronto that the platform does have the ability to provide advance vote tallies — but that it’s just following Ontario law and replicating a legal physical process on a computer.
“As is also the case with paper-based proxy tallies, electronic proxy voting tallies are accessible by the authorized agent of the client in advance of the meeting. It is outside the scope of GetQuorum’s service to dictate how the advance tallies are used,” co-founder Ben Zelikovitz said in an e-mailed answer to questions.
He said should his clients choose, they can use a feature called advance electronic balloting, rather than digital proxy votes, which would mean the company could restrict access to results until the time of the meeting.
Miller said she would prefer having a provincial agency to complain to — but right now, there is no provincial agency that can take a complaint about condo elections and how they are run. That’s something that should change, said NDP MPP Jessica Bell.
“It’s a bit of a wild west in the condo sector today. There’s little recourse condo residents can take if their condo has an unfair election and that’s got to change,” Bell said.
“We are calling for the Ontario government to strengthen this so if the condo has a concern, they have a number to call, and a government person who has the authority to investigate and the authority to lay fines if they find wrongdoing,” she said.
The provincial government is asking for feedback on proposed amendments to virtual meetings “while ensuring fairness and integrity,” said Barbara Hanson, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, pointing to the consultation, accessible until January 22.
The Condo Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario doesn’t have jurisdiction over condo elections, but it does have jurisdiction over those that conduct the elections: the condo managers.
“The CMRAO is aware of the situation as it relates to electronic voting and has received several inquiries related to the role of the condominium manager in this process,” a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to CTV News Toronto.
“The CMRAO expects condominium managers to act as impartial administrators in all voting and election processes…The role of the condominium manager as it relates to condo voting (electronic or otherwise) is to serve as neutral and unbiased facilitators. They should not attempt to influence the outcomes of voting processes in condos,” the agency said, adding that it would publish some additional guidance soon.
Toronto Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Students trapped inside a classroom with a gunman repeatedly called 911 during this week's attack on a Texas elementary school, including one who pleaded, 'Please send the police now,' as nearly 20 officers waited in the hallway for more than 45 minutes, authorities said Friday.
Speakers at the National Rifle Association annual meeting assailed a Chicago gun ban that doesn't exist, ignored security upgrades at the Texas school where children were slaughtered and roundly distorted national gun and crime statistics as they pushed back against any tightening of gun laws.
Fifty-eight-year-old Vivian Ketchum is set to receive her high school diploma at a graduation ceremony at the University of Winnipeg next month. It is a moment that is decades in the making.
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos was met with justifiable criticisms and unfounded conspiracy theories.
An 11-year-old survivor of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, feared the gunman would come back for her so she smeared herself in her friend's blood and played dead.
A new report says Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto rank among the top 20 cities around the world when it comes to work-life balance.
Fragments of a comet broken nearly 30 years ago could potentially light up the night sky Monday as experts predict an 'all or nothing' spectacle.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling allowing the Quebec City mosque shooter to be eligible for parole after 25 years is raising concern for more than a dozen similar cases.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the federal government is working with groups on the ground to resolve air travel 'bottlenecks' in time for a busy summer.
Is it unconstitutional to make someone pay to get a legal document translated into French? One of Montreal's top lawyers thinks so, and pointed out two other things from Bill 96 that he thinks the courts would most easily find fault with.
Canada's highest court has ruled that Alexandre Bissonnette, who murdered six people at the Quebec City mosque in 2017, will be eligible for parole after 25 years.
Quebec says it is ready to vaccinate people who have come into close contact with monkeypox as soon as Friday.
Saturday’s powerful storm left a lasting impact across Ontario as city crews continue to deal with the damage. Western University’s Northern Tornado Project reported that two EF-1 tornadoes touched down in London — and on Friday, Environment Canada confirmed it.
A London man is facing impaired-related charges after a vehicle he was driving collided with a gravel truck on Wednesday morning, according to police.
The London Police Service is requesting the public’s help with locating a person of interest after a gun was fired on Richmond Row in the early morning hours of Friday.
A man, who was a referee at high school volleyball games in Guelph for more than 30 years, is facing sex assault-related charges.
The Region of Waterloo says there's a high safety risk at a Kitchener encampment and they are working with residents to prepare them for their eventual move.
Two low-cost airlines are butting heads over an agreement at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. Swoop wants to offer flights but the airport already has an exclusivity deal with rival Flair Airlines
On Friday, there was a walk in Sudbury to remember the remains of 215 residential schoolchildren found in Kamloops, B.C., a year ago May 27.
Staff at the new Sault Metis Centre are getting set for the grand opening Saturday.
Members of the NDP, Liberal and Green parties attended a meet and greet at Nipissing University's Student Centre on Friday afternoon.
As of Friday evening, 26,000 Hydro Ottawa customers remain without power in all neighbourhoods of the city.
Approximately 25,000 people will take part in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
Ottawa Bylaw says the "mama and her 4 kittens" were abandoned outside the PetSmart on Innes Road sometime between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Friday.
Windsor police are asking for the public’s help identify a driver who fled after a rollover crash.
'Just do Mable things': Father of 18-year-old Pain Court crash victim shares memories of his daughter
It’s been a long and sorrow-filled week for the extended families of Mable Baker, an 18-year-old Chatham-Kent woman who was involved in a fatal car crash last weekend.
A local musician will be back on stage for the 16th annual 24-Hour Drum Marathon.
On the final day of the Paul Sadlon sexual assault trial, the defence called the complainant's allegations "straight out lies" and "not believable at all."
Provincial police are searching for a missing senior who went for a walk with his two dogs on trails behind his home in Springwater Township Thursday afternoon.
An Aurora couple is making plans to buy a house after winning the lottery.
A Cape Breton father is warning the public of the dangers in the area he lives after his teenager son fell nearly 40 feet over a cliff in Glace Bay.
A lawyer for families of victims killed in the Nova Scotia mass shooting says an 18-hour delay in finding five bodies of those murdered is a sign of "deficient" policing.
The lawyer who represented a man who murdered three RCMP officers nearly eight years ago in Moncton, N.B., said a decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada Friday may potentially change his sentence.
A southern Alberta man who killed three people, including a two-year-old girl, could have the ability to request a release from jail earlier than his original sentence intended, thanks to a landmark Supreme Court decision Friday.
Calgary Flames fans are still coming to terms with a playoff series loss to the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night in a game that saw both controversy and heartbreak following a Connor McDavid overtime goal.
Western Canada's premiers want to reform their health-care systems by expanding services but they say Ottawa first needs to pick up the phone.
Pembina Trails School Division is confirming to CTV News that a group of students found a body during community cleanup at Ècole South Pointe School.
Winnipeg police are telling people to find an alternate route this afternoon as they are investigating a fatal crash near the St. Boniface Industrial Park.
'It's one way to be creative': Winnipeg student wants to be a bartender when older; school doesn't like comment in yearbook
Bartender. That is what one Grade 4 student said for the yearbook when asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, an answer the school is asking him to change.
A B.C. mom with a rare, debilitating illness has spent years trying to get the help she needs. Now she's considering medical assistance in dying.
The number of COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals hit its lowest point in more than a month this week, and the decline was driven largely by regions outside the Lower Mainland.
Researchers working in partnership with UBC believe an eco-friendly material could help solve the world’s plastic pollution problem.
A hotly-controversial decision on whether or not to freeze base funding for police in Edmonton was delayed Friday as fallout from a dispute between the mayor and the provincial justice minister continued to rattle political circles.
A 19-year-old man is in police custody after a shooting near Rogers Place after an Edmonton Oilers viewing party ended Thursday evening.
A shelter many expected to remain open until the end of June in Wetaskiwin, Alta., will close a month early.