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Liberal MPP Han Dong aims to make contractors responsible for elevator fixes

A building manager is pictured in an elevator pit in a downtown Toronto office building on on July 13, 2016.


Maintenance contractors would be held responsible for getting broken-down elevators up and running in relatively short order under proposed novel legislation in Ontario that seeks to address what some have deemed a crisis.

The legislation, which also calls for changes to the provincial building code, is expected to be introduced on Wednesday by Liberal MPP Han Dong, who has spent months crafting the bill.

Under the Reliable Elevators Act, elevators in most buildings would have to be repaired within 14 days – seven days for those in long-term-care and retirement homes. To achieve that goal, the bill aims to amend the definition of a consumer under the provincial Consumer Protection Act to include those who hire elevator-maintenance contractors.

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"The building owner is the consumer and the contractor is the service provider," Mr. Dong said. "So, the contractor will be responsible to comply."

The approach would subject contractors to a wide range of punitive measures – such as blacklisting, public shaming or prosecution – that exist under the Consumer Protection Act and which the Consumer Services Ministry already enforces.

The proposed legislation seeks to bridge a glaring gap between current stringent safety regulations and "elevator availability," in which users have little recourse beyond yelling at a building manager.

Mr. Dong, MPP for Trinity-Spadina, said he was inspired to act after The Canadian Press reported last summer on extensive problems in the elevator industry, and he was getting an earful from constituents in his Toronto riding. Apart from frequent outages, he said, paramedics on one occasion took more than an hour to get a senior down from the 11th floor of a building because the only elevator large enough was out of service.

"One complaint that stood out was about the elevators," Mr. Dong said. "It's more than accessibility. It's actually a health and safety issue."

The Canadian Press investigation last year uncovered widespread elevator problems across Canada – from people getting trapped, to seniors stuck in their apartments for weeks on end. Latest figures, for example, show firefighters in Toronto alone had to pry open elevator doors to free 3,647 people in 2016.

To ensure adequate service in new buildings, the second part of Mr. Dong's bill would make elevator-traffic studies mandatory under the Ontario Building Code, which now requires only that a building of more than seven storeys have at least one elevator.

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While private members' bills seldom make it through the legislature, Mr. Dong did successfully spearhead an initiative to regulate home inspectors that was essentially adopted by the government.

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