Ontario delays release of report on elevators pending ‘plan of action’


TORONTO — The Ontario government is delaying the release of a consultancy report on elevators commissioned by the province’s safety authority last spring and delivered in November while it puts together a response.

While the Liberal government initially said it was up to the safety organization to release the analysis of elevator reliability and availability to the public, it now says that won’t happen for several more weeks.

“We are currently reviewing the report and considering next steps to improve elevator availability in Ontario,” Barbara Hanson, with the Ministry of Government Consumer Services, said this week. “We look forward to making the report publicly available in the coming weeks, along with an action plan to address its recommendations.”

In April last year, the government ordered the arm’s-length Technical Standards and Safety Authority to commission a study amid concern about growing issues with out-of-service elevators in a society increasingly dependent on them. A private member’s bill from Liberal backbencher Han Dong that among other things would mandate time limits for getting defective lifts operational received widespread political support but drew the wrath of the dominant industry players.

In response, the authority contracted with Deloitte to do the study — led by retired justice Douglas Cunningham — with an October deadline. As Cunningham prepared to finalize the report, the country’s four main elevator companies, alarmed by Dong’s bill and other proposed measures, produced their own report that cast a wide net of blame for “real and perceived” problems with the industry.

The companies, multinational giants Kone, Otis, Schindler and ThyssenKrupp, which essentially exonerated themselves, also blasted the safety authority for what they characterized as stifling red tape.

Cunningham went back and revised the report to reflect those concerns but the safety authority known as the TSSA had a final version in early November. At the time, it said it was awaiting government permission to release it publicly.

“We have asked the TSSA to translate the report into French and convert it to an accessible format before making it public,” Hanson said in early December.

This week, however, the TSSA confirmed the holdup was at the direction of the government, which faces a general election in six months.

In an interview Tuesday, Dong said he, too, had yet to see the final report or its recommendations, but said he trusted the government was preparing a far-reaching “industry-norm changing” plan to deal with elevator maintenance and availability.

“It’s not to manage this issue, it’s to actually fix it,” Dong said. “A lot of caucus members are behind me on this issue.”

Dong said his bill was “very much on the front-burner” and he was adamant something would be done before voters pass judgment on Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government in June.

Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the safety authority, said he was unable to provide any details on the report or the holdup of its release.

“It is indeed a TSSA report — we commissioned it and paid for it,” Robinson said. “But we were asked to provide the report to the ministry for their consideration before making it public.”

A previous investigation by The Canadian Press found widespread problems with elevators across the country, including growing calls to emergency services by people trapped in them and others essentially stranded on upper floors by out-of-service lifts, sometimes for months on end.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press