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Wynne Liberals gave legislation royal assent, but implementation is stalled under Ford Conservatives

Ontario residents living in high-rise buildings have an elevator problem.

Whether it’s delays or entrapments, breakdowns and maintenance issues have reached such a fever pitch in the province that the former Liberal government passed legislation to get tough on the elevator industry and restore reliability in vertical transport. But residents should brace for a new delay. A new law called Access to Consumer Credit Reports and Elevator Availability Act, 2018 – which mandates regulators to create penalties and deadlines for elevator downtime, among other improvements in our elevator infrastructure – may have received “royal assent” in the dying days of ex-premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, but it hasn’t come into force, and there’s no signal from Premier Doug Ford’s new Progressive Conservative government to suggest when or if it will ever happen.

The Globe and Mail has sought clarity on whether the new government will take up the bill’s requirements, without success.

“New regulations are subject to decision-making by the new government,” wrote Barbara Hanson, media relations adviser for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. "We will communicate any future initiatives with respect to elevator availability legislation, as appropriate.”

Follow-up questions about timelines on when that appropriate time might be were not answered.

Ontario’s elevator issues are long-standing and growing as the province adds more tall buildings every year. According to the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), the Ontario regulator that licences elevators for operation, there are more than 10,000 buildings in the province serviced by elevators and roughly 655,000 trips per day on the almost 20,000 individual elevator cars.

Across the province, elevators aren’t available about 3 to 4 per cent of the time, but many buildings in the GTA report much longer periods of downtime, and while it negatively affects everyone, it can be critical for first-responders attempting to access a building and for users with mobility challenges. In 2016, maintenance issues led to 9,649 reported entrapments, meaning about 26 times a day, people become trapped in elevators.

In May, The Globe and Mail reported on an elevator maintenance fiasco in which, for months, residents of a 25-storey Liberty Village condominium tower in Toronto dealt with intermittent breakdowns of all three elevators at once. That situation was emblematic of the reasons legislation was passed, and since then readers have sent in example after example of the same kinds of problems at other buildings.

One reader, Nolan Sarner, who rents an apartment on the 13th floor of the 16-storey condo at 95 Bathurst St., recently wrote to complain about the intermittent failure of every elevator at once, a situation that has persisted for months. “Even when an elevator technician is sent to fix the problems, the elevators go down within weeks, sometimes days,” he said. “The tenants of the building are completely fed up.”

In 2017, the Liberal government commissioned an independent study from the TSSA that offered 19 recommendations that would form the basis of the elevator law. Among them were measures to address the shortage of elevator technicians in the province; to create a public database recording elevator downtimes and reliability, for consumer and first-responder reference; and eventually to formulate rules for allowable elevator downtime – which would have been the first such guidelines in the world – and give the TSSA the power to fine companies that didn’t comply.

As of right now, there appears to be no action on any of these files.

As written, the new Elevator Availability Act alters portions of the Consumer Reporting Act and Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000, but those changes only “come into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant-Governor.” That “day to be named” is the loophole that allows the province not to act on laws that have been passed by the legislature.

According to the body’s own rules, by default, legislation passed at Queen’s Park comes into force immediately upon receiving royal assent from the Lieutenant-Governor. However, oftentimes bills contain provisions that stipulate a specific or non-specific future date when a law will be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor, giving the law its force.

Ontario residents can search proclamations on the government’s website. Even though there have been several other orders in council, the new elevator law remains unproclaimed.

The tactic of simply not proclaiming laws the government doesn’t wish to act on isn’t new, and already Mr. Ford’s PC government has shelved a number of higher-profile pieces of legislation passed by the former Liberal government.

Sharp-eyed Queen’s Park watchers keeping an eye on the orders in council published by the government noted the PCs made changes to the scheduled implementation days of updates to the Police Services Act, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Ticket Sales Act, which delayed indefinitely the unfinished business of the Wynne Liberals.

There has been no order in council related to the elevator law, but with an open-ended implementation, it’s possible the government could simply never proclaim a date.

It’s not clear if elevator accessibility is a low priority for the new government, but unless this law is proclaimed and the new regulations are written, the public could miss the elevator and get the shaft.

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