Ontario’s new elevator law is stuck between floors

The only elevator in the 10-storey apartment building at 345 Laurier Ave. East is out of order, and hasn’t worked since July.

A new Ontario law is supposed to make sure that tenants have elevator service, but it is stuck too, having been passed months ago by the legislature without ever taking effect in the real world.

There’s no word from official sources on when — or whether — that law will ever surface again.

The awkwardly named Access to Consumer Credit Reports and Elevator Availability Act was passed by the former Liberal government in early May. It had two halves: One to give consumers better access to credit reports and scores, and the other to reduce elevator outages.

Both these areas are regulated by the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

The Laurier Avenue building owners haven’t responded to requests for an interview, but one tenant said a notice indicates work on an upgrade may start in December.

The apartment building at 345 Laurier Ave. East.

The frequent long-term breakdowns of elevators across Ontario was the subject of a provincial inquiry under Justice Douglas Cunningham that found the problem complex, with no single obvious fix. For instance, there’s a shortage of qualified elevator mechanics, and sometimes parts must be ordered from overseas if a company in Canada does not stock them.

Early this year, the Liberals promised a plan that includes:

• “Enhancing access to elevators for first responders.
• “Enhancing enforcement of elevator safety regulation by TSSA (the Technical Standards and Safety Authority) to ensure elevators are adequately and proactively maintained.
• “Addressing the labour supply of elevator mechanics through consultations to determine options to meet labour market demands.
• “Creating future standards for elevator repair timelines.”

The law was passed in early May. But the law is written to come into force on a date to be proclaimed in future. And the new Progressive Conservative government has not proclaimed it, or set a date.

The PCs sent this statement in response to questions about their plans: “We understand there are serious concerns regarding elevator availability across the province. We are working with ministry officials, TSSA and industry to better understand the causes and the policy options available so we can address these issues in an appropriate, enforceable and effective way.”

Han Dong, the former Liberal MPP who started the legislation with a private member’s bill, says he’s not surprised that it is taking time to proclaim the new law because it still needs specific regulations. This requires a period of notification, and also requires wrestling with difficult issues such as how quickly a building owner should be forced to repair elevators.

“It’s not enforceable” until then, he said.

“I don’t think it (proclamation) was intentionally stalled,” he said. But he said there is no need to study the issue over again and said proclamation should happen “as soon as possible. If you look at the report (by Justice Cunningham), a lot of stuff has been talked about over and over and over. Everyone knows what the issue is. It just takes some political will to put this on the front burner to get a result.

“If this is a priority to the minister and the ministry, I believe this can be done in a matter of weeks, maybe months.”

Dong said he launched his private member’s bill after paramedics had to carry an elderly woman in his downtown Toronto constituency down 11 flights of stairs, which took an hour. The elevator was out of order. She died a few days later.

tspears@postmedia.com

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