Jean-Marc LaLonde, MPP, Second Reading Debate

The Loeb franchisees were threatened day by day. I remember meeting with many of them in the Ottawa area. They were afraid to leave their stores. They had to put chains on their doors. I was there myself to look after the security of those people. I stayed at the Rockland store on several evenings with Mr Milks, our local franchisee, as they were afraid that the franchisor would come in at any moment and take over the store. The OPP were put on alert. These families were fearful of the franchisor.

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The Legislative Assembly of Ontario
May 17, 2000

Member of Provincial Parliament Statement
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Mr. Jean-Marc Lalonde, MPP

Hansard Reporting and Interpretation Services
1st session, 37th Parliament

Orders of the Day
Second Reading Debate

FRANCHISE DISCLOSURE ACT, 1999
Consideration of Bill 33, An Act to require fair dealing between parties to franchise agreements, to ensure that franchisees have the right to associate and to impose disclosure obligations on franchisors

Mr. JEAN-MARC LALONDE, MPP

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): It is with pleasure that I rise today to debate Bill 33 and inform those who intend to buy a franchise.

Bill 33 is an act concerning fair dealings between franchisees and franchisors. The only thing I can say is that this legislation is about five years too late for many franchisees in Ontario. I remember in 1995 and 1996-Mr Speaker, I'm pretty sure you remember too, because we had to travel all over Ontario to protect those IGA-Loeb owners-when several franchisees in Ontario were having difficulty and turned to this government for help. This government was not willing to proceed with any legislation to help these franchisees. It appears that if it is not the Harris government that brings forth legislation, it is not good. It never sees the light of day; it never sees the light at the end of the tunnel. I think this is unfair to the people of Ontario.

In 1996, when the Loeb franchisees were experiencing great difficulties, I was trying to help the franchisees-Mr Milks and his family from Rockland in my riding, along with 21 other franchisees in eastern Ontario. I have the whole list here of the 21 franchisees: Arnprior, Bayridge, Blind River, Brady Street in Sudbury, Cochrane, Ottawa, North Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Kanata, Kirkland Lake, again Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, Lincoln Heights in Ottawa, Manotick and many others. This government didn't want to listen.

Meetings were held with the then Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the member for Markham. Today he is the Solicitor General. But these discussions went nowhere. Also, a Franchise Sector Working Team was established by this government, made up mostly of franchisees. The report, of which I have a copy here, was presented to the minister and also to the Premier in August 1995. This wasn't enough to get this government to take any action at the time.

The Loeb franchisees were threatened day by day. I remember meeting with many of them in the Ottawa area. They were afraid to leave their stores. They had to put chains on their doors. I was there myself to look after the security of those people. I stayed at the Rockland store on several evenings with Mr Milks, our local franchisee, as they were afraid that the franchisor would come in at any moment and take over the store. The OPP were put on alert. These families were fearful of the franchisor.

Both a Liberal member, Bob Chiarelli, who is now the chair of the Ottawa-Carleton regional government and a candidate for the mayorship position of the new city of Ottawa, and also the NDP member for Sault Ste Marie, Tony Martin, who is right now the Speaker of the House, brought forward a bill in 1996 that this government chose to ignore. In fact, I have today a copy of a letter dated July 22, 1996, written by Mr Chiarelli, and another one written by the member for Lanark-Carleton, who was then the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, that stated, "Unfortunately, due to other significant government priorities, my ministry was required to temporarily set aside discussion respecting our proposal for some form of franchise legislation." Unfortunately-

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): That was Mr Sterling.

Mr Lalonde: Yes, it was Mr Sterling who clarified that at the time. The letter was signed by himself, sent to Rolly Laberge, Loeb Fallingbrook, 1675 Tenth Line Road, Orleans, Ontario. He too lost his franchise because of this government's inaction.

This is five years later, and this government has now decided that this matter is important. How many franchisees like those in my riding have suffered losses because this government didn't have time for them?

I have a copy of another letter, written by the Premier of Ontario. The Premier also said at that time that they didn't have time really to look at this legislation. Those people were suffering, the whole family, the whole community, because those people who operate their own store, IGA-Loeb, were also involved in the community helping out Boy Scouts, hockey teams, majorettes, you name it.

They were really involved in the community. That wasn't good enough for the Premier of Ontario. He decided to delay passing this legislation.

By the way, this one from the Premier again was very clear. It says, "I've noted your concern about unfair business practices on the part of Loeb Inc and your support for the introduction of franchise legislation." He realized there was a concern, but he didn't do anything at that time. While franchisees were losing their businesses and life savings, the Premier was noting their concerns. I guess we can say thank goodness the Harris government finally has time for franchisees and also has noted their concerns, but I can tell you that many people in my riding, not only the franchisees, were affected by the inaction of this government. The local Loeb grocery store employees, all 125 of them, experienced a lengthy period of uncertainty, not knowing if they had a job from one day to the next. Even today, many people in the community feel they have lost a part of their identity. Mr Milks, like many others, was part of their community.

I would like to talk for a moment about another case in my riding, that of a Canadian Tire franchise. This franchise was owned by the Lamoureux family in Hawkesbury. This was a family business, operated by the Lamoureux family for over 25 years. When the father died, the son and daughter, who had worked there for many years, had no security whatsoever, and in fact had to look elsewhere for employment. The franchisor regulations prevented them from taking over. The Lamoureux family has opened up another store, Home Hardware, and today their business is just booming. It's just to show that the franchisor regulations at the moment did not stand at all even though we have to support them. This government was inactive in those regulations.

I must say I support this legislation but I would still like to see specific penalties for franchisors who fail to abide by the terms of the legislation. As you well know, the franchisors are in a much better position to proceed with litigation than the franchisee. Let's take the next step and pass this legislation as soon as possible.

I would like to inform those people who intend to buy a franchise that, first of all, they should contact a qualified lawyer who is fully aware of what a franchise is; otherwise, any lawyer could take their case. But you have to look over the fine print in the agreement before you sign a contract.

This document is a verbatim copy of this MPP’s speech. To review the original transcript:
http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/house-proceedings/house_detail.do?Date=2000-05-17&Parl=37&Sess=1&locale=en

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