Toronto Maple Leafs fans have suffered through three heartbreaking seasons since Premier Doug Ford's government passed changes to Ontario's ticket sales laws that were meant to ease the hurt to buyers' wallets, but have still not been implemented.
The answer to why there continues to be a delay in cementing changes to help rebalance the power dynamic between ticket vendors and buyers is a mystery. "We continue to review the (Ticket Sales) Act on an ongoing basis to ensure we best protect Ontarians," is all a source in Public and Business Service Delivery Minister Kaleed Rasheed's office would say when asked about them.
In a simple sense, the still-unimplemented changes would weaken the control that companies like Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation have on the ticket sales market.
They would do this in three main ways. Firstly, vendors would be required to disclose the number of tickets being sold to the event, including how many would be in each batch, if applicable. Secondly, companies would be prohibited from limiting the transferability of the tickets they sell — giving the buyer true control over the ticket, and the ability to resell it without the original vendor tacking on secondary-sale fees. And thirdly, violators of the act could face higher penalties, with the max increased from $10,000 to $25,000.
The changes are similar to laws recently passed and implemented by several U.S. states, including New York, in reaction to monopolistic-like control of the market by major ticket retailers.
Opposition MPPs, including Liberal interim leader John Fraser and Green Leader Mike Schreiner, say the Progressive Conservative government's continued lack of urgency in implementing the three-year-old law changes shows it doesn't actually care about protecting consumers — counter to the party's and Ford's own public posture.
"By failing to pass the regulations, the Ford government is putting the corporate interest of scalper bots ahead of concertgoers. The government needs to pass the regulations and protect concertgoers from exploitation," said NDP MPP Tom Rakocevic in a statement to QP Briefing.
The still-unimplemented Ticket Sales Act sections were passed in May 2019. They were effectively replacements for laws the previous Liberal government passed after public anger over profiteering by ticket-sellers and -resellers rocketed during the Tragically Hip's 2016 farewell tour. As the Liberal government was passing its laws, the PCs claimed they were "cleaning up the mess they created in the ticket industry," referencing its 2015 changes to the Ticket Speculation Act, which cracked down on small-scale scalpers but consequentially gave major vendors more control over the secondary market.
Ford's government scrapped the Ticket Speculation Act within a month of being elected for the first time and then included rewrites to the Ticket Sales Act in its 2019 budget.
It's also now been more than two years since the government finished a five-month-long public consultation about the pending regulations. July 1 represented another opportunity for the government to implement them, as the date is one of two times a year the government typically brings into force regulations like these that would affect businesses. The other common date is Jan. 1.
In January of this year, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery, which was headed by then-minister Ross Romano, said "our government is monitoring the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the live entertainment industry and will make decisions based on the best information available."
"We are ensuring that consumer protections are aligned with the way Ontarians live today, while simultaneously responding to the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. We continue to work with stakeholders and take various factors into account when making decisions about the Ticket Sales Act," a ministry spokesperson said.
Now, the two ministers most likely to have some responsibility in implementing the changes — Rasheed and Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Neil Lumsden, whom sources close to the issue have told QP Briefing has been looped in on discussions about the regulations — are both new to their positions.