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Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) bylaws were amended on Jun. 20 to authorize an approximately 700 per cent increase in membership dues. Generating an additional $63M in dues. The purpose: funding mandatory enrollment into a group insurance program for 96,000 registrants.

The registrants, all non-voting members of OREA had no direct say or vote in the matter. Let that sink in!

Those members are OREA members because their association offers the MLS services they rely on.

The persons most affected by this decision have no say and, moreover, cannot opt-out. That is correct. No option. You need to remain a member to conduct your client services; if you do not like it, you have to leave your local association and, with leaving, lose access to the core tool in service to clients: the MLS system. Let this last point sink in, also.

Don’t need the coverage, don’t like the quality of the coverage, don’t like the return on investment of the coverage, are covered by your spouse’s employer-paid plan, the plan does not cover family member needs, have a plan already, you are over 65 and have provincial free drug coverage, the plan does not provide you with a benefit because of your age…but you still pay the full freight. Well, too bad and so sad; pay up or ship out. Let that sink in!

If this were government, it would be totalitarian. If it were a ruling class requirement, it would be oppression. If it were a power relationship, it would be authoritarianism. We, the many independent contractor servants of buyers and sellers of real estate, are not subjects of a realm. The absence of the voice of those most affected is suppression. Those responsible for delivering services realtors have paid to create and manage have exerted control over its use.

Whatever the merits for offering insurance, and there are some, it is egregious to mandate and impose insurance and its premiums upon members who have no direct voice in the matter. And threaten them with loss of income if they fail to pay.

In the 1800’s, realtors created the MLS system on a fundamental principle: helping each other sell inventory, the raison d’être for organized real estate (ORE). Other services offered by ORE to its member are not essential or, if essential, are not otherwise readily available in the broader commercial marketplace. Insurance is available, readily available, in varying levels of coverage and fees.

Unless the service or system is central to the delivery of real estate professional services, such as the MLS, land registry data, forms for creating agreements or implementing regulatory obligations, a mandatory program is predatory. And the egregious nature of this demand for compliance does not go away because 31 per cent of 2.0 per cent of the members said they want coverage.

Those seeking information from the OREA website might have noticed the FAQ information about the wellness program has changed. Specific information about the numbers from the 2019 survey of members is gone, replaced by more general statements like “The results from that survey found that the majority of REALTORS® do not have the specific types of insurance coverage that will be included in the Standard Plan.”

Interesting. A majority do not have the “specific” coverage which “will be included” in the plan. The June website provided some interesting numbers: one was that 51 per cent wished to have a safety net, another that 69 per cent have that safety net in place, and that 31 per cent do not have a safety net.

OREA would have you believe that a” majority” induced them to push forward with this initiative when the reality is that fewer than 2.0 per cent of the membership responded to the survey/poll, and of those, only 31 per cent indicated an interest. This means that the decision to bind 96,000 members was based on 595 people.

OREA would have you believe that it will cost only $2 per day for those benefits. When, factually, the cost is $172,000 per day.

OREA would have you believe the phrase “time and time again,” yet this is an untruth perpetrated by OREA to justify this fiasco. They specifically said that in their surveys, the membership had told them time and time again that a benefits program is a top desire. Yet nobody can find these multiple surveys. It’s more smoke and mirrors.

Confused? You bet it is confusing. It is also woefully lacking in foundation to support this plan.

According to OREA, 1900 members responded to a survey in 2019. That was four years ago. At best, the data is outdated, and at worst, it is falsely applied to new or newly crafted benefit program terms and policies. The times have changed dramatically from pre to post-pandemic circumstances, and yet OREA failed to ask for more current opinions. Well, maybe they will take notice, and they should, to the petition with 8,300 signatures (and growing in number daily) from those who oppose the mandatory enrollment (that is 10 times the number who indicated they had no coverage and wanted some). You can give them coverage, and it does not require that everyone get coverage.

It is a ruse to suggest the 2019 survey indicates a majority want this plan; heck, the plan was not crafted till most recently. It’s a ruse to suggest that a majority want this plan. No one asked those surveyed if they supported mandatory enrollment. It’s a ruse to suggest a majority want this when nearly 70 per cent already have some form of coverage. And it’s a ruse to suggest 1.0 per cent is enough of a majority to warrant this unilateral and imposing action.

I dare say if the members were surveyed as to the one need they have, it would be a coordinated single MLS system in Ontario. Now that is essential. But apparently not essential enough for OREA to mandate its association members, the voting members, either join a single system or they must leave OREA. Let that sink in!

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