Go back to the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations Story
Federation of Metro Tenants Association historical chronology
Federation of Metro Tenants Associations
- Origin of FMTA
- Corruption of FMTA
- Recent behavior of FMTA
B. The offense against private rental tenants
- FMTA provides no actual services
- FMTA has no right to speak for tenants
- FMTA exists to police against a tenant movemnt, not to build one
C. The offense against public housing tenants
- Public Housing
D. The offense against Labor
E. The offense against taxpayers
- FMTA have become masters oF funding by stealth
- FMTA avoids all accounting for public money
- FMTA uses its funding For partisan purposes
- FMTA is a model for corrupt practices
F. the offense against social agencies
- FMTA evades the grant process
- FMTA sets a bad example
G. the offense against democratic ideals.
- FMTA is a training ground for anti-social behavior
- FMTA helps to make participation dangerous
Federation of Metro Tenants Associations (FMTA) was formed in 1974. It displaced a group called Metro
Tenants Association, which was responsible for getting the first landlord and tenant act passed in 1971 and
which had notable success in mobilizing tenants. FMTA has always been accused of drifting along, and of
internal fighting, but it only seems to have gone seriously wrong in 1986.
Although its members now claim responsibility for the progressive tenant legislation during the Peterson
and Rae governments, the Peterson law, the Residental Rent Regulation Act, was in fact the worst tenant legislation tenants in Ontario ever saw with
it leading to even greater rent increases than even under the Harris government's Tenant Protection Act and had
little to nothing to do with the NDP's Rent Control Act. They actually helped the Harris government draft the
present, regressive 'Tenant Protection Act,' making it harder to challenge in court. And the Peterson law led to
huge rent increases, just check this page on the Ontario Liberal 1986 Tenant law.
FMTA was built when there was an advantage to forming a tenant association. The 1971 law required
residents of an apartment building appealing for various things to select a small group to be their spokespeople.
They could not each apply separately, so there was a demand for help in 'tenant organizing.' Since the law
changed and individuals could make claims, there has been a decline in tenant associations. Then under the
Tenant Protection Act, tenant associations became ineffective; only individuals could make claims to the
'tribunals.' Tenants need a powerful central lobby group.
Kenn Hale sat on the board of FMTA from its inception. He operated a tenant advice line which was closed
in 1987 for 'mismanagement' which many have said was due to missing money as well as for proving bad legal
advice. He has been in control of FMTA since the latey 1980s when the organization seems to have become
completely corrupt. He and most of the other people now gathered around FMTA fit the psychological classification
of 'Narcissistic Personality Disorder.' This means they have no conscience, are obsessed with power and control
over others, and with eliminating anyone who can expose them.
FMTA had been involved in the forming of a Metro Tenants Legal Services and ran it as a separate but subordinate
organization. In 1996, when the clinics employees rebelled against the managements bullying, the FMTA
abolished the clinic, which had been performing a necessary service for tenants. In recent years the Provincial legal clinic
system responded to a need for a Tenants issues legal clinic. However, they did not listen to good advice and
appointed Leslie Robinson, who had been an odious FMTA functionary before moving to Vancouver, to set up
the agency. Kenn Hale and various FMTA and 'clinic mafia'now control its board of directors. They have changed
the clinics name to ACT-O and it does nothing except consume public money.
The FMTA expanded its tentacles across Ontario by creating an umbrella group called 'United Tenants Of
Ontario (UTOO)' The Ottawa subsidiary lead by Dan McIntyre tried to force the Ottawa city council to pay it a
lump sum for every rental unit in the city. The council of that city was wiser than Toronto's and responded by
defunding the Ottawa 'Tenants' organization. Without the knowledge of the elected board, McIntyre cleaned out
the organizations bank accounts, tore equipment from the office, and moved to Toronto.
UTOO and FMTA flourished under Rae government funding. The Harris government removed all this funding
on taking office, and UTOO and its affiliates collapsed, except FMTA, which survived on a grant from the city to
run a tenants advice hot line. The hot line was starved so money could be skimmed. Small grants of various kinds
were steered to FMTA by mysterious protectors at city hall, to do things that often were not done.
After the 2000 civic election, FMTA found supporters on the Toronto council.
Employees of the city housing and community services department who were supposed to monitor FMTA were intimidated from doing so. This intimidation came from very powerful people. At least one senior employee of the city staff quit because of this pressure. It is repeated endlessly that FMTA's books have been examined and found clean. There has never been any real auditing of FMTA.
In 2000 FMTA was granted $350 000 a year for two years. $175 000 was to run a phone hot line. $150 000 was do stop illegal ret increases. $25 000 was to profide information to tenants about rent increases. This passed by one vote.
$175 000 a year is far more than is needed to run an information hot line. Community Information Toronto could have better provided this service, but its management was warned away from putting in a bid by Jack Layton. FMTA is criticized by several people with deep knowledge of tenant law for giving bad and misguided advice.
The $150 000 was equally divided between 'tenant outreach and organizing' and 'tenant defense grants.' $75 000 is enough to keep two people 'outreaching' to tenants, but it does not seem to be happening. The $75 000 in grants for tenant associations to engage lawyers is not being taken up for various reasons just check this letter of complaint by the High Park Tenants Association. But the Tenant Defense Subcommittee gives surpluses to the FMTA. There is no evidence that the $25 000 is getting much 'information' to tenants.
Since 2000 FMTA and its affiliates have refined their 'funding-by-stealth' techniques. They are exempted from the grants process. A tenant defense subcommittee of the city council is supposed to oversee FMTA's activities. It rarely meets and when it does it does not have quorum, so all recommendations are forwarded directly to city council. There they are hidden among piles of other business and never 'held for discussion.'
FMTA has a long reputation for viciousness toward any percieved enemy. Its members have gotten people arrested on trumped up charges and attempted to get people fired from their jobs. In 1999 Howard Tessler tried to get board member Patricia Eastwood to move to Bob Levitt's building so later he could convince her to file complaints against him. They will send false and altered e-mail messages around to defame people and create conflict. They have connections all over 'left' and 'progressive' circles, including the New Democratic Party and city councillors affiliated with it. Some people seem to see them as a 'sacred cow' that must be defended no matter what.
The core group of FMTA have no political convictions whatever. They are pure opportunists. 'The Left' provides them with cover, but their real support comes from 'The Right.'
The single most telling fact against the FMTA is that the powerful Toronto landlord lobby has no objection to it and its vile practices.
The offense against private rental tenants
There is no point to 'tenant organizing' and 'tenant outreach.' In the present conditions, there is little advantage to organizing an association. Relatively well-to-do tenants should have the money and skills to organize themselves for any particular purpose. Poor, uneducated tenants have little chance against their landlords under present law.
FMTA's tenant outreach consists at best of trying to promote themselves and politicians they favor, and to collect dues. At worst, it is about actively disrupting any association which does not want to join FMTA. A perfect example was the now defunct 40 Charles Street Tenants Association.
The tenant defense fund is of some use but it is really administered by the city housing office and FMTA's exact role in it is unclear but definitely not useful. Its purpose is to enable tenant associations to hire lawyers to contest rent increases above the official guideline set by provincial legislation.
The tenants have to overcome any discouragement by the landlord, find a decent lawyer, take the illegal increase to court, and then apply for the grant. They also have to suffer the attentions of FMTA who try to steer them to their favored paralegals such as FMTA board member Kevin Milburn, or lawyer Jean Hindman. Then they get a rent rollback amounting to a few hundred dollars a year at best. And it has been shown that they are at some risk of losing and being hit with court costs, especially when landlords appeal rulings. No one can explain why the tenant office at city hall does not simply employ a team of inspectors and lawyers to deal with illegal increases and other abuses of landlords.
The Tenant Hot line does not provide sound advice. They seem to get their information about tenant law from the tribunal office itself. This is the wolf advising the sheep. Any legal clinic could provide as good or better advice. Legal clinics are generally mediocre and over politicized, but they at least employ people trained in law, who have experience defending clients at the tenant tribunals. This is the only way to learn tenant law.
What is needed is a tenants' issues legal clinic which operates a telephone hotline. If the province cannot be convinced to defund ACT-O and start over again, and listen to people and get it right this time, then the city should set one up.
At one time the City of Toronto had its own Landlord and Tenant Advisory Bureau that had a hotline. It was dismantled in the early 80's at the behest of Ward 6 City Alderman Dale Martin, a former Director of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations on the excuse that it would be far cheaper to outsource the work to non-union workers.
FMTA gets very little of its income from membership dues. They drive away potential members. They depend on grants from government and spend most of their energy seeking them. Therefore it cannot be a useful advocate for tenants issues. Often FMTA speaks against the interests of tenants, as when they tried to rationalize that correcting the four to one imbalance in property taxes to the disadvantage of rental property and tenants, and in favor of home owners, would lead to reductions in social services. If home owners were paying their fair share, why would it?
Where does the city council get the right to declare FMTA to be the only official voice for tenants in Toronto? FMTA does little to attract or keep its membership, which is probably only in the hundreds. It hasn't kept records of individual or association memberships for a long time. FMTA is run in a very top down way, and anyone who disagrees with the core group is quickly and brutally gotten rid of. There is not even a pretense of seeking the opinion of members or of tenants in general.
Many of the key members of FMTA are home owners. Many members of past and present boards have been home owners. This is forbidden by the constitution of FMTA as it was at least until 2000. Many people who work or have worked for FMTA have also worked or are working for landlords organizations.
Many people have observed that FMTAs 'outreach' workers are not being paid to organize tenants, but to disorganize them. Some people have reported that FMTA took sides with the landlord, claiming he or she were within their legal right, as though that made moral right, given the present very unjust laws. Many attempts by tenants, often very disadvantaged tenants, to organize themselves, have been wrecked by FMTA. Sometimes FMTA were misguidedly called in, and sometimes they intruded without being invited.
Any attempt to start a tenant group which attracts the attention of FMTA will bring a predictable response. First they will try to take it over by choosing a stooge from among the existing group, or finding one somewhere, and setting him or her up as the leader. Anyone objecting is bullied out of the way. If they are stood up to and shown the door, then they start a rival group and try to pull members away from the original group. They will do things like; go around telling everyone that a meeting has been canceled or changed, or hold a separate meeting at the same time as the targeted group. They have people, male and female, who are expert at in-your-face verbal and physical intimidation, which is very hard for one person alone to defend against. They are experts at dividing people and taking them down one at a time.
People familiar with labor history know what a 'company union' is. When labor unions were becoming established, company owners determined to keep their businesses 'union free' would hire criminals to break up attempts to form unions, or to set up phony unions under their control. Anyone resisting and exposing this was eliminated ruthlessly. Often people who wanted to support labor were stupid enough to be manipulated into supporting the phony unions and to join in demonizing the real leaders of labor.
FMTA is best understood as a kind of phony union secretly operated by the city who is Toronto biggest landlord which has good reason to fear a real tenant movement. There is a great need for such a movement in Toronto but it will be very hard to establish until the means of suppressing one are dismantled. The best way to start doing that is to 'black flag' any further funding for FMTA, or any other tenant and housing related organization this group may set up or coopt.
The offense against public housing tenants
FMTA has coopted attempts to form a tenant council within the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC). This is extremely harmful because now is a key time for public housing tenants. They really need to develop a lobby group for their interests.
The situation can become very grim in the near future. The management of the city's main housing provider, TCHC, is excessively political and generally unqualified. An institutional culture very contemptuous of tenants has developed and the tenant support staff who have tried to develop a tenant representation system are under attack.
All responsibility for running housing has been downloaded to the city without the money to operate it. The money isn't there to maintain all the buildings in their present state, let alone bring them all up to a reasonable state of repair.
In recent years, an attempt was made to form an effective tenant representation system. The reasons why it hasn't worked are complex but originate in the housing managements previous suppression of tenant associations among their tenants, and in the interference of outside groups who want to manipulate the tenant councils for their own purposes.
There are many people in 'housing' who were good at policing other tenants and stopping any initiative that would inconvenience management. They have been accustomed to being rewarded for this. For some reason the people hired to 'facilitate' a tenant council were left baffled about what to do with 'these people who will do anything to get control.' When 'these people' discovered that TCHC was now serious about not giving out goodies in exchange for cooperation, they turned savagely on the housing company and its staff.
From the beginning of the tenant participation project, the FMTA and certain social agencies were watching. The latter seem to want housing company policies that suit them. The former has had the idea that it has the sole right to establish a social housing tenants group.
At one time the plan was for the housing company to make available to the tenants a sort of door tax of one dollar per unit per month. This would have generated about three quarters of a million dollars a year. It is similar to the McIntyre plan for Ottawa tenants and would be a plum prize for the opportunists of FMTA.
What went wrong was that the FMTA's stooges went over the line and provoked strong resistance to themselves from the housing company tenant support staff and most of the tenant council. The housing company did not want to fund an attack on itself. Most 'tenant representatives' realized there was going to be nothing in it for them that was worth the trouble, and dropped out. The conscientious ones were offended by the stooges boorish behavior.
With a new group of tenant representatives elected, the housing company has rewritten the rules so the tenant council is no more than a focus group. The moderate tenant leaders created a non profit corporation called T.H.A.T. to act as an independent voice for tenants. They tried to reopen a dialogue with the housing company.
Recently these moderates have been outmaneuvered by the regrouped FMTA- social agency stooges. They had no chance against the stooges, who have access to money and resources, training and direction from FMTA. The THAT board of directors is now stacked with dimwits who do not realize that the agenda of the people leading them around by the nose is directly counter to social housing tenants interests. This is the fourth time an attempt to form a representative group for social housing tenants has been wrecked by outside interference.
THAT now supports the move to halt all evictions in TCHC and all screening of new tenants, disregarding the peace and safety of the tenants. And it endlessly repeats its demand to be given money. It is hard to see how social housing tenants can gain a voice in the management of their housing in the face of FMTA's relentless destabilizing of the situation.
TCHC CEO Derek Ballantyne was previously the head of Ottawa's public housing where he worked with Dan McIntyre and his previous Ottawa group to undermine tenants. When Dan needed a job, the FMTA's Kenn Hale and Barb Hurd guaranteed McIntyre one, and it appears that Ballantyne arranged for McIntyre to go to the head of the public housing waiting list for cheap but unsubsidized units and Dan got a very prime townhouse in the Hydro Block on Henry Street.
The offense against Labor
FMTA will pose as being a 'left' affiliated organization, supportive of organized labor and the New Democratic Party. Many of its operatives started out as 'lifestyle' radicals and learned in that milieu how to be bullies and jobbers. As they got older they became mere opportunists, and better at getting paid for doing little and trashing whoever gets in their way. They have extensive connections with people of a similar mentality.
The members and supporters of FMTA mouth support for labor unions in public. They often say their organization works on the 'union model.' In private they often express their contempt for labor. On one occasion this contempt came out in public when two key members of FMTA were making a deputation before a committee of the legislature. To the great surprise of the members present, after they had finished their prepared presentation and were answering some questions from members, they bragged about destroying the Metro Tenants Legal Services clinic in order to destroy its employees union. Kenn Hale the man behind the FMTA and Legal Director of the South Etobicoke Legal clinic after the demise of his cash cow the original Tenant Hotline, is very anti-union.
FMTA had thought that after closing the clinic, the clinic funding system would not let the public go without such a vital service, and so they would simply get money to start another clinic. They guessed wrong, and the city has been without this service since 1995. And of course, without these union protected jobs.
The tenants hot line is one of many advice and information services staffed by poorly paid, non union employees. Most of these services would be better run by the city, and the jobs unionized. If there is no tenant legal clinic worthy of the name to run a hot line, than the tenants hot line would also be better run directly by the city.
FMTAs staff are paid $20 an hour, which is not much to raise a family on in Toronto. FMTA is well known as an abusive employer, driving out employees who might object to, or blow the whistle on, its ways of doing things. In 2000 Catherine Toresse-Benyi won a suit against FMTA before the compensation board for sexual harassment and constructive dismissal. Jane Harvey refuses to even admit she ever worked there.
FMTA's corrupt practices put unionized city employees in a 'look the other way or else' situation. Their union should be objecting very loudly to this, as well as demanding an end to public funding of an organization which is such a bad employer.
the offense against taxpayers
The vote in 2000, to give FMTA $350 000 a year over two years, passed city council by one vote. Since then everything FMTA has gotten has been passed without any debate.
There seems to be a tacit agreement among city councillors that FMTA is not to be touched. Most 'left' councillors seem to see FMTA as a sacred cow that is to be protected at all costs. FMTA seems to have built a legend about itself among New Democrat and labor circles as an example of popular organizing that succeeded and endures despite intense opposition from the right wing. They seem to believe that almost every advancement in the condition of tenants has been due to the FMTA, which is under constant attack from the landlord lobby.
Most center to right wing councillors and Mayor Lastman accepted FMTA for harder to discern reasons. It seems that for many, it is a case of; 'you don't expose my secrets and I won't expose yours.' Some very right wing councillors have expressed that the FMTA are alright because they pose no threats to landlords. The landlord lobby and various interests which benefit from the bias against rental housing have a great unspoken interest in keeping FMTA in place.
Some left councillors are becoming uneasy about FMTA. Some far right wing 'budget hawks' vote against anything for FMTA but they don't track FMTA closely and usually miss its 'stealth' tactics. These councillors seem to feel they are in a losing position in trying to block FMTA and are waiting until an opportunity occurs to knock them out. They could be waiting a long time if FMTA is never publicly exposed.
The City of Toronto, Tenant Defense Subcommittee rarely meets and when they do they rarely have quorum. Under the rules of council, whatever is proposed on the committee's agenda is sent directly to city council and it is passed unless some councillor spots it and 'holds' it for discussion. In this way grants to FMTA associates for various things such as $75 000 to 'promote awareness of tenant issues' and encourage tenants to vote are passed without discussion.
It is now much easier for FMTA to get at larger amounts of public money. During its leaner years prior to 2000, they still got money or various things they often never did. At one time they got a grant to update their membership lists. They pocketed the money and never did this.
Money was often deposited into their bank account by mysterious parties that seem to have included other social agencies and some parts of the city government. The reason given was so that these parties could transfer funds from one budget year to the next. It is very likely that some of this money stayed with FMTA and that most of it was directly or indirectly public money.
When the Harris government cancelled a program that allowed private rental tenants to buy out their landlords and set up coops, some money was left in a bank account of the dormant non profit group that had administered the program. It should have gone back to the provincial treasury or, better, to the coop federation, but somehow some FMTA operators got themselves appointed to the board of this organization and reactivated it simply in order to scoop the money.
FMTA avoids financial accountability in two ways. First, they keep few records and thus leave no paper trail. Second, they implicate as many influential people as possible in their crimes.
For a time during the 1990's they did not even keep minutes of their meetings. Financial reports presented to their 'board of directors' were very rudimentary, including round sums for items like 'newsletter' and even 'other.' There was a secret fund, thought to be about $50,000, which the board of directors was never informed of. They were lead to believe that the organization was barely breaking even.
FMTA fired any accountant who suggested to them that the accounts should actually show what the funds were spent on. Most accounting firms who looked at their records simply said that it followed proper accounting procedures, but they could not verify the truthfulness of the accounts because there were no receipts to back it up.
More recently the FMTA board has been handed a financial statement that took an operating deficit and treated it as an asset in the equity side of the statement.
FMTA is never required to present a detailed account of how it spends public money. The city staff and sympathetic politicians accept these obviously falsified statements as satisfying all reporting requirements. If a more detailed accounting is demanded, these same city staff have several consultants available who will pose as being 'independent' and deliver a whitewash. There has never been a real audit directed by someone who is not implicated with FMTA.
FMTA is very good at getting sympathy from key people, spinning a story that makes them seem indispensably, under unjust attack and in disarray, and needing some breathing space to get itself in order. Or, there were some improprieties under the previous chairman, really a dispensible figurehead, but that is all past now and can't be allowed to sink the FMTA which is indispensable, and so on and so forth.
A lot of people have bought into this and then realized too late that they were being suckered by criminals. They have become too closely implicated to dare blowing the whistle. These people include a former very influential city councillor who is now leader of a federal party. He is mainly responsible for getting FMTA its renewed funding in 2000 and suppressing a proper audit. He was at one time thought to be the first person likely to turn on FMTA if they fail to 'clean up their act.' But since he fell out with them all he has done is try to distance himself from them. They have found new supporters.
The little people in the city housing and community staff, the FMTA can simply intimidate. They either go along or they are forced out of their jobs. FMTA has connections everywhere so any disgruntled former employee, board member, or volunteer can have a hard time being listened too, and also continuing to be involved in the public sector.
One Toronto city councillor, Michael Walker, has had the bad judgment to enter into an openly symbiotic relation with FMTA. He is the chair of the tenant defense sub-committee of council that was struck to oversee FMTA and in fact covers for it. He has a sign on his office on councillor's row at city hall proclaiming it as the 'tenant action office.' It is almost impossible to tell where his personal staff, the FMTA's staff, and the city tenant office staff, begin and end. He is the FMTA point man on council, and in return they help him get re-elected. FMTA is said to largely staff his election campaign.
Some people believe that public money should never be used for any political purpose. While it is usually unwise for a non-profit agency depending on government money to seek to raise awareness of issues, there is nothing improper about it if it heightens public awareness and informed debate. FMTA uses its money to attack or promote individuals, and to get power and money for themselves.
They often use their website's discussion board for this purpose. They also send their people to heckle political candidates and ask planted questions. They seem to have toned down this behavior after criticism. They no longer openly advocate political parties and candidates, and seem to have toned down denunciations of people who can expose them. These are often in very abusive terms which put the target in danger by creating a rationale for assault, swarming, or making spurious charges.
During the 2000 civic elections FMTA savagely denounced certain candidates as "enemies of tenants." In the 2003 elections they make a pretense of being non-partisan, but they are still working for their supporters and against those who are concerned about them. They still show up at candidate debates complaining that the city is only giving a few cents per tenant household to the tenant movement. They constantly try to 'brand' themselves as being 'the' tenant movement.
Some critics of FMTA have noted that if it truly had the support of tenants it would be able to support itself by membership dues. In its early history, it did do this. At one time it had at least 4000 dues paying members. This should have been a sufficient base to enable FMTA to maintain a small office and core staff. Most public interest advocacy groups are able to operate effectively with this.
FMTA collected about $15,000 from membership dues in 1999. The amount has been declining for years and the trend continues. FMTA does not seem to want members, and it keeps the number of them secret. During 1999, a number of unopened member letters with annual dues cheques inside them were photographed in a waste basket in FMTA's office.
A public interest advocacy group really advocates for those who fund it. This is why such advocacy groups should be funded by private donations. They should stay away from administering government programs. This is the only way an advocacy group can remain non partisan and have real credibility. Otherwise, it as a misuse of public funds in order to buy a phony, controlled "voice of tenants."
FMTA sets a bad example. There are many non-profit organizations who are having a hard time getting funding to do the work they were set up to do. They were started on the assumption that a system of public grants would be available to these organizations because they can deliver certain services more efficiently than governmental bureaucracy.
They look at FMTA and begin to think that is the way you get your funding in the 'new era;' rather than provide a needed service efficiently and show that you are doing so, you become thugs. You refuse to provide proper reports and budgets, and threaten anyone who tries to find out what you are using the money for. You use much of the money to buy off critics or buy alliances with politicians who can steer money to you 'under the radar' of normal grant applications processes.
Once a city bureaucrat has been bought or bullied into going along with graft, it is easier for other grafter groups to do the same.
There are private interests who have reason to be concerned about public interest groups. They may look at the success FMTA has been for the landlord and property development lobbies, and seek to build up false front citizen groups in other fields, also using unacountable public funds.
The offense against social agencies
Every other social agency in the city, many of them doing excellent work on very tight resources, must go to its funder, particularly the city, every year in order to get money to operate. The city has a community grant system which requires each agency which administers services to submit business plans, detailed budgets, and go through strict performance evaluations. A great deal of most agencies time is spent justifying its budget. They are usually unable to pay their employees properly. They are flatly disallowed from political activity.
But FMTA is exempted from this process and these rules. It only has to answer to a sub committee of council which rarely meets and is packed with its supporters. It gets lump sums of money and is free to do whatever it wants with it. It does not have to submit detailed budgets or present any kind of business plan. It is impossible to even find out how many employees it has, or exactly how much money it gets from the city when all grants are included. It gets away with submitting rudimentary and deceptive performance reports.
For example, FMTA will claim its outreach workers 'organized' five tenant associations in five buildings. In fact it held only one meeting for tenants in a complex of five buildings. This meeting was not to organize new tenant associations, but to undermine an existing one. When the board of the real tenant association wrote a letter of complaint to the sub committee that is supposed to supervise FMTA, they were ignored. Just look at this letter from the High Park Tenants Association.
As another example, FMTA has an outreach team of two people, supposedly to inform tenants about the tenant defense fund. But most tenants who use the service find out about it through advertisements placed by the city housing staff. The housing staff do all the work of administering the grants.
FMTA staff seem to spend a good deal of time doing volunteer work for other groups. They dont seem to spend much time on tenant outreach. There is reason to believe that some of the public money FMTA gets goes to other organizations which could not and should not ever get public money.
FMTA pays its employees about $20 an hour. The executive director makes about $60,000 a year. This is a big increase from when he was complaining about only making only $35,000 a year to represent Ottawa tenants. These arent great incomes but they are good compared to the usual pay in social agencies. Nonetheless, it is hard to see what FMTA could legitimately be doing that needs something over $400,000 a year.
There are many non-profit organizations who were set up to administer governmental programs. In recent years they have been short funded and bullied by neo-liberalism influenced government at all levels. They have to grovel every year for the funding to keep going. They cannot pay their staffs decent wages.
These agencies look at FMTA, which is able to get substantial funding without having any clearly defined mission and without having to show proof that they perform any useful service with the money. FMTA keeps on pushing for more money without ever explaining what it plans to do with it.
These agencies must inevitably ask themselves if this is the way to insure their survival; rather than be good at providing a needed service, become good at manipulating the system. Develop symbiotic relationships with foolish or corrupt city councillors. Use public funds for self promotion and for personal attacks on critics. Behave imperialistically, as though types of services and those needing them were 'turf' to be fought over.
This can only lead to a 'behavioral sink' in which those agencies who are not willing to behave like criminals disappear. Those agencies that survive by getting a lock on turf and the funds to go with it will link to become a very abusive bureaucracy, worse than the government agencies the non-profits were supposed to be a remedy for.
The offense against democratic ideals
The FMTA core group seems to be connected to a larger network of people and organizations who generally pose as 'left-progressive' but are opportunistic in their behavior. These people seem well placed in the legal clinic system, the New Democrat and Liberal parties, in certain social agencies, the 'law union' of left lawyers, and certain government bureaucracies.
People who are at least somewhat aware of this have different interpretations of it. Some believe these people are 'communists.' Some think these people are 'undercover agents' for 'the conservatives' or the 'corporations.' Some get really paranoid and think the police or some intelligence service is behind them. No doubt all these explanations have part of the truth, but fall well short of the whole truth. The whole truth is probably unknown even to the people who make up this network.
It is a maxim, even a kind of old joke, within leftist social activist circles that the 'anarchist kids' all grow up and become 'establishment conservatives.' But it is more complex than that. It is also an old maxim that anarchist and Marxist student groups are full of the nastiest petty infighting seen anywhere. They are constantly breaking up and regrouping. Their participants all seem to have the idea that their own little clique has the correct line or analysis. Everyone else is wrong and evil, and anything goes in putting them down and their own clique up. As they get older, they discover they can get away with this sort of behavior and it can be a way to get the social status and material rewards they do not really deserve.
These people generally present as having what psychologists classify as 'narcissistic personality disorder.' Another term often used is 'sociopath.' They are people who got to be about five years old and for whatever reason decided it was easier to get things by harassing and deceiving people, rather than by growing up and learning to get things by earning them. They are people who want the privileges of adults without the obligations.
It is hard for normal people to understand or cope with someone with no conscience. When such people are intelligent and educated, they are almost impossible for honest people to deal with. Recently there has been some public awareness of bullying by Narcissistic and other personality disorders, and the destructive effects it has in 'the work place.' There is growing awareness of the problem in schools and in families. But there has been little attention to its effects within activist groups and community organizations. This is a subject that needs a lot more study.
FMTA seems to have ties to many radical groups. They seem to attract some of their volunteers and staff from them. Many of these people move on to other organizations.
Many groups and agencies involved in 'poverty law' and 'poverty activism' seem to be controlled by, or are in the process of being taken over by, people who know how to use bully and 'crazy-making' tactics in order to maintain control. Their methods are very similar to FMTA's methods and usually they have ties to FMTA. They usually spent some time as a staff person or at least a volunteer.
FMTAŬs 'interns' often turn against them. Narcissistic personalities tend to not like each other. There are not many of them and ones who can work for a long time with others like themselves are rarer, more dangerous, and more valuable to FMTA and whatever is behind it. But this isn't entirely a problem for FMTA because these people are the same kind of opportunists as FMTA, or have personality disorders. Part of defeating FMTA involves creating a real alternative to them. If you have all these people who are on the outs with FMTA but have the same attitudes and skills taught by them, and all trying to create a job for themselves, or some weird sort of personal empire, it is hard to create that alternative. The honest people who are motivated by the injustice against tenants and the poor become cynical and inclined to believe the worst about everybody, unfortunately without thinking about who is telling it.
In addition to the officers there have to be the foot soldiers. There seem to always be some fanatical supporters of FMTA, who usually say that FMTA helped them in a crisis. All FMTA did for them was tell them the law, which is what they are paid to do. There is a psychological category of 'dependent personality disorder.' They need a 'protector' and will sometimes do almost anything for the protector. Anyone who says anything bad about the protector is evil incarnate.
There are also plain thugs who like doing dirty work for small favors. Both these sorts of people are willing to threaten and follow people who speak against FMTA at public meetings or try to hand out literature about them. They can instigate swarmings on people. They can send threatening e-mails out, and fake messages that appear to come from 'enemies' of FMTA. They can send messages that support 'enemies' in a way that discredits them. These people are not usually very smart, but they seem to get some schooling in the arts of threatening, slandering, and tormenting people without getting arrested.
Everyone has their own idea of democracy. Almost everyone would agree that our society needs to become more democratic. Most people would agree there is more to this than voting every few years; people should be actively involved in the communities they live in. Everyone should give some of their time to public service and running the local service agencies and boards that make society work. Otherwise, privileged elites and vested interests make the decisions for us all.
In practice, only the privileged can usually be involved in public life unless they have a powerful protector. The reasons why this is so are complex and FMTA is only one small part of the overall problem. If we agree that there must be a rough equality between people for democracy to occur then this condition must change.
If administration of public services is to be devolved from large governmental bureaucracies to service agencies, there must be standards by which these agencies operate. There will always be some people who want to create an income without having to do much, or build an empire with taxpayers money. This inevitably requires driving out anyone who might expose them. The way the law is set up now works very much in favor of those who would abuse power. This has to change if this society is to become more democratic.
Until that happens, and to help create the pressure to make it happen, self promoting money sucker operations like FMTA must be held up to the light and their participants prosecuted. There has been talk lately of 'whistle blower protection.' Usually what happens to the whistle blower is that their lives are destroyed and the people they tried to expose get away with it. This has been especially true in relation to FMTA. People who expose creeps like FMTA must be listened to and protected from retaliation. Their legal expenses should be covered. Intervention against the Toronto police will often be necessary because of their well known distain for hearing both sides of a situation.
But nobody should have to go through this in the first place. If public funds are to be given to non-profit agencies it must be at arms length from politics; no exceptions. There must be a thorough supervision of every agency. Each must provide proper accounting and performance reporting; no exceptions. Their by-laws must be of a standard form and must be followed; no exceptions. No one must be allowed to use public funds to attack and silence criticism from inside or outside the organisation; no exceptions.
There must be a strict separation of service and advocacy agencies. If any agency gets public funds to administer services then it must be apolitical; no exceptions. If an agency exists to advocate for a particular interest, which is perfectly acceptable in itself, they must do it with private donations. No exceptions, otherwise the potential for abusive closed power complexes is much too great.
There cannot be a truly local and participatory democracy until people are safe from personal attack by the creeps who seem to be everywhere, who think they have the magic button to make other people disappear. Instead we need the apparatus to make them disappear.
There is talk among the candidates for mayor in this 2003 civic election, of cleaning up petty corruption, of applying a broom to city government.
The FMTA is as corrupt as it gets. They have mastered the art of manipulating the system for fun and profit and are teaching other people to do the same. They are a spreading cancer. They haven't gotten anybody beaten and maimed as far as we know, but they seem to have tried to on more than one occasion. It is anyones guess how far they are prepared to go.
The best way to end petty corruption is to make an example of an instance of it such as the FMTA. People have been demanding a proper forensic audit of them for a long time. A criminal investigation is also in order, because members of FMTA appear likely to have committed defamatory libel, as well as obstruction of justice and even bribery of police.
Obviously, such an investigation cannot be carried out by those likely implicated in the crimes. This includes the city housing and community staff and the Toronto Police. These city staff have been responsible for previous whitewashes of FMTA. Investigations which might implicate members of the Toronto police tend not to be done well.
Several city very foolish councillors and provincial politicians are also connected to FMTA. Challenging them would be the ultimate test of a new mayor and councils willingness to truly sweep away brazen corruption from this city.
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