Tim Horton’s franchisee in PEI is vacating tenants to make way for foreign temp workers

Cécile Sly is one of the tenants taking over DP Murphy Inc., her attorney and now the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.  (Stacey Janzer/CBC - photo credit)

Cécile Sly is one of the tenants taking over DP Murphy Inc., her attorney and now the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission. (Stacey Janzer/CBC – photo credit)

One of three people fighting eviction notices they received from local franchisee Tim Hortons in Souris, PEI, said the company had no legal grounds to force renters to vacate their apartment building.

DP Murphy Inc., which operates a number of Tim Hortons franchises in Prince Edward Island, purchased the 4 Pleasant St. home in November and issued eviction notices to tenants on January 5.

According to documents the company has filed with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, PEI’s rental regulator, the company plans to use the building to house foreign temporary workers.

“There is absolutely no legal basis for this,” said Cécile Sly, one of the company’s tenants, her lawyer and now the provincial rental inspectorate.



According to the eviction notices, DP Murphy plans to convert the premises “for non-residential use”, which may be grounds for eviction under Section 15(1)(b) of the Residential Lease Act.

Sly said they don’t think that could be the case, as the company said it would house workers in the building.

They noted that the property is still designated as a residential area.

Souris Mayor JoAnne Dunphy said no request had been made to change that zoning – but such a change would not be necessary for the building to be used as staff accommodation.

“If it were to convert to a business like a hotel, the owner would have to apply for a zoning change and a business permit,” Dunphy told CBC News via email.

“We certainly don’t want anyone to lose their home,” she added. “We have a housing shortage”

Housing temporary foreign workers “essential”

PEI sees urgent demand for labor and housing.

As the province’s tourism industry began to recover from the pandemic in late 2021, employers in the service industry said it was difficult to persuade workers to return to work.

We are… very concerned about the possible public disclosure of our business records, so I felt I had no choice but to report this issue to the Rental Clerk. – Mark Doucet, Attorney for DP Murphy Inc.

Since then, demand for labor has continued to rise, with the province’s traditionally high unemployment rate hitting a record low of 4.9 percent last June.

The PEI government launched a new series of its provincial nominee program open to the tourism industry early last year.

Then the federal government announced an expansion of the employee leasing program to include tourism companies.

In documents filed with IRAC as part of the eviction case, DP Murphy said providing staff housing is “an essential part of our promotion of foreign temporary workers,” according to a statement signed by Abdul Babar, the company’s senior human resources director.

A tight rental market

But the company’s plan for the Souris building comes at a time when housing in PEI has become a hot commodity.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, PEI’s home vacancy rate fell to 0.8 percent in 2022. This is the lowest rate among any Canadian province.

A lack of staff housing in Souris “has resulted in managers driving employees over an hour to and from Charlottetown,” Babar wrote, “or employees driving alone, often late at night on winding roads and in wintry conditions.”

Stacey Janzer/CBC

Stacey Janzer/CBC

In its filing with IRAC, DP Murphy listed four other properties on the island it uses for staff accommodation, including a house in Souris where the company listed 10 tenants.

In some cases, the company said it charges workers between $200 and $400 a month in rent. In others, the accommodations are listed as a taxable benefit for the employee.

The company said the rent charged to employees “is so that we can begin to cover our costs and is not intended as a profit center for the company.”

Tenants could face “fines or penalties” if they share information

DP Murphy’s attorney, Mark Doucet, said the company would not comment on this story.

The day after CBC News told DP Murphy it had received copies of the company’s filings with IRAC, Doucet said two of the tenants fighting their eviction notices, both senior citizens, had been warned by the commission that they ” Fines or sanctions” could threaten. for exchanging records related to their hearing.

Both renters later declined to give CBC News interviews.



“We are … very concerned about the possible public disclosure of our business records, so I felt I had no choice but to notify the landlord of this issue,” Doucet wrote in an email.

He cited a provision in the Housing Rent Act that mandates confidentiality in hearings about rent increases. However, the same provision is not included in the legislation on eviction procedures.

However, Doucet said that under the law, the Director of Rented Housing at IRAC “has the power to set rules of procedure”.

CBC News then asked IRAC what confidentiality requirements might be placed on an eviction hearing.

“The Commission cannot comment on matters that have been or may be debated before the Director,” read the email response.

“Matters at director level are private and confidential and between landlords and tenants. If the matter is appealed to the Commission, it becomes public.”

A landlord with “deep pockets”

Rosalind Waters, a volunteer with PEI Fight for Affordable Housing, said this group “has attended numerous hearings over the years … and the tenants have never been told they can’t talk to anyone about what was going on at the hearing.” So the optics of it are not good.”

“It kind of illustrates the huge power imbalance between landlords and tenants in this province,” Waters said, adding that it can be intimidating for tenants to take action against landlords who “have an attorney to represent them and a landlord to represent them.” the tenants know he’s deep pockets.”

It somehow illustrates the enormous power imbalance between landlords and tenants in this province. – Rosalind Waters, PEI Struggle for Affordable Housing

Waters said her group has advocated “massive investment in public and non-profit housing” with subsidized below-market rents “so that everyone has access to decent, affordable housing.” And, of course, migrant workers should have access to decent, affordable housing. “

But she said it was wrong to pit such workers against existing residents, as was done in the Souris evictions.

“I don’t think it’s right, nor do I think it’s going to do anything to solve the housing crisis for people living around Souris,” she said.

“Not a question of national security”

Sly said her hearing is due on February 23.

They said some other tenants left without trying to fight their evictions, and some people told Sly to be “scared” about standing up to such a big company.



But Sly said they want their eviction notice voided – and said they will not be silenced when it comes to speaking about the findings of their hearing.

“This is a tenancy committee hearing, not a national security issue.”


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