Thursday 14 January 1993

Annual report, Provincial Auditor, 1992

Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations

Judith Wolfson, deputy minister

John Walter, assistant deputy minister, technical standards division

Norman Benn, manager, field operations, elevating devices branch


*Chair / Président: Mancini, Remo (Essex South/-Sud L)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Cordiano, Joseph (Lawrence L)

*Callahan, Robert V. (Brampton South/-Sud L)

Cousens, W. Donald (Markham PC)

*Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East/-Est ND)

Haeck, Christel (St Catharines-Brock ND)

*Hayes, Pat (Essex-Kent ND)

Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND)

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

*Sorbara, Gregory S. (York Centre L)

*Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Farnan, Mike (Cambridge ND) for Mr Frankford

Fletcher, Derek (Guelph ND) for Mr Johnson

MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton ND) for Mr O'Connor

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC) for Mr Cousens

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Osti, Ezio, director, ministry and agency audits, Office of the Provincial Auditor

Peters, Erik, Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffière: Manikel, Tannis

Staff / Personnel: McLellan, Ray, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met in closed session in room 151.



The Chair (Mr Remo Mancini): The standing committee on public accounts is called to order. The committee this morning is reviewing the work of the Provincial Auditor. We are reviewing the audit report on elevating devices as it refers to the elevating devices branch of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. We wish to thank the guests whom we've asked to appear this morning and we'd like to ask our guests to introduce themselves for the record and what offices they hold within the ministry. You can make a presentation to the committee this morning if you have one prepared. If not, we'll immediately go into questions from the members. I'd like to turn the floor over to our guests.

Ms Judith Wolfson: Thank you, Mr Chair. My name is Judith Wolfson. I'm the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.

Mr John Walter: My name is John Walter. I'm the assistant deputy minister, technical standards division.

Mr Norman Benn: My name is Norman Benn, manager, field operations, elevating devices branch.

The Chair: Ms Wolfson, does the ministry have a presentation for the committee, or do you want to proceed into questions and answers?

Ms Wolfson: No, Mr Chair, we do not have a presentation to make. I do want to thank the committee for the opportunity to appear. I have with me senior officials, senior members of my staff, who I hope will be able to assist the committee and answer all the questions in a rather technical area of the ministry's responsibility.

The Chair: We'll start off with a 10-minute round: official opposition, Progressive Conservative Party, then the government members.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): Welcome to the committee, and nice to meet you again on this matter that we discussed in the last part of 1992 in the standing committee on estimates. Let me start off by asking what the ministry has done since then in terms of implementing pragmatic solutions to these problems. What trains have you set in motion to get these items resolved? There are a whole host of things to deal with to do with the auditor's report. What can you tell me that you are starting to do that we would feel good about in terms of this report, because there's a whole lot we do not feel good about and there's a whole lot of concerns that we have on this committee.

Ms Wolfson: I think, Mr Cordiano, that I'm going to ask Mr Walter to specifically talk about the issues that we feel are of importance, the issues that the Provincial Auditor highlighted, and our response to them. If I might, though, take just a very few moments, I think it is important for us to put into context -- and I know Mr Walter will do this -- the efforts this ministry is making to ensure safety in a very vigorous manner. The issue of elevators and elevator safety is difficult. There is no question that the issue of paramount importance is the safety of elevators, but I think it's important to put into perspective that in the province there are about 35,000 elevating devices, that there are about six billion rides per year and that safety is of paramount importance in six billion rides a year.

It is our view and it is our response to the Provincial Auditor that the safety of elevators is not being compromised, that, although there have been a number of fatalities over the past five years, those have been very few and far between, an average of fewer than one per year, and none of those has been due to mechanical failures. That's the perspective, if you will, that we spoke to, I hope, in our response to the Provincial Auditor. There are indeed measures that we have taken and will continue to take, and I'm going to ask Mr Walter to talk specifically about inspectors and how else we are managing that system.

Mr Cordiano: Before you do that, before you turn to Mr Walter, I, perhaps in assisting you in answering some of these questions, want to be a little more specific. With regard to the auditor's report and your responses to his findings, you start off with this sentence: "We do not agree that inspection efforts were inadequate to ensure compliance with safety standards." Then, as a consequence of that statement, you go on to indicate responses to the auditor's concerns about what you are in fact doing to increase inspections so that safety is not compromised. You have a contradictory statement from the outset in view of the actions or at least in view of the initiatives that you will indeed take in answering some of the charges made by the auditor about safety standards. On the one hand, you do not want to recognize that you have safety problems with respect to the frequency of inspections and, on the other, you're taking steps to correct that. Which is it? You recognize that you have safety standards problems with respect to compliance or you don't.

Ms Wolfson: I am going to request Mr Walter's help with specifics to your question. The issue of elevator safety is not directly related only to inspection and numbers of inspectors, and that is why it's important for us to look at how we in the ministry manage the issue of elevator inspections and elevator safety as a package. Perhaps Mr Walter can help.

Mr Walter: First of all, to follow along what the deputy minister said, Ontario has probably the best elevator safety code in North America. We are entirely comfortable with the level of safety the equipment provides. That doesn't mean we wouldn't try to improve on that. With regard to some of the specific things you are particularly interested in, Mr Cordiano, we have undertaken probably three main initiatives to address your concerns.

The first would be around the implementation of an automated licensing registration and inspection system. You would have seen it in our response; it's called Index. We will have the third phase of that program completed by May of this year, with the data being populated by the end of the calendar year.

The second main initiative would be the inspector training program. What we found, probably in the late 1980s, was that we were unable to attract inspectors from the industry because of the very high salaries they were making there, and because we didn't believe that they had the qualifications that we would need as an inspector. So the ministry undertook an inspector training program and brought on three inspector trainees in 1990 and another six in 1991.


Mr Cordiano: So what you're saying is that you feel that you're inadequate in terms of the number of inspections that are taking place, as you see a real need for increasing the number of inspectors.

Mr Walter: I don't like the word "inadequate," because I believe that the staff are using an assessed need or a risk assessment now. We are targeting the areas where we need to put our resources.

Mr Cordiano: Why do you need more inspectors, then?

Mr Walter: Well, because it can always be a better system. I will admit that in the past number of years, especially when there was very heavy construction in the province, we were forced to spend our time doing the initial inspections rather than the periodic inspections, so that some of those periodic inspections may have been delayed for a period of time. So we want to address that.

Mr Cordiano: So when resources should have been applied previously, they weren't, in terms of increasing the number of inspectors. For what reason? I mean, inspectors can pay for themselves -- we've heard this as well -- through inspection fees. And yet you weren't able to increase the number of inspectors when the province needed those inspectors the most.

Mr Walter: You must remember, sir, you don't bring on an inspector and have him ready to go in the first 30 days. You've got to bring people on who are able to be trained and then --

Mr Cordiano: Yes, but you can forecast what's happening in the economy in terms of increases in economic activity at the beginning of a business cycle, understanding that there will be, in fact, a need for a greater number of inspectors towards the middle or end of that cycle.

All I'm saying here is, look, really we had a situation where there was a shortage of inspectors. You recognized that you had a shortage of inspectors. Can we establish that? You need more inspectors and in fact you're moving to increase the number of inspectors.

Mr Walter: In 1985 there were 31 inspectors. In 1990 there were 25 inspectors. In the interim time we have brought on the training program; we are increasing it by nine. We would like to bring those nine on to see if that is a satisfactory number. We believe that with the implementation of the Index system and with other efforts we're taking, that may be the best number. It will bring us back up to a figure higher than we had in 1985.

Mr Cordiano: As a consequence of that, what we're talking about --

Mr Mike Farnan (Cambridge): We lost most of those inspectors during the Liberal administration.

Mr Cordiano: Mr Farnan, I'm not interrupting you when you speak. Please allow me the same courtesy.


The Chair: Mr Cordiano has the floor. The witnesses will answer the questions, the members will place the questions, and all interjections are out of order.

Mr Cordiano: The point I am trying to make -- I'm trying to assure the public that with the number of inspections and the risk factors involved, risks to safety, that the public can be reassured --

Mr Farnan: But what you're not saying is that during the Liberal administration --


The Chair: The member is placing a question.


The Chair: Mr Farnan, you're out of order. You're completely out of order. Could we allow the witness --

Mr Cordiano: Mr Chairman, I'm being provoked to the point where I can no longer hold back what I am about to say.

The Chair: Let's just --

Mr Cordiano: The level of risk to this province has increased ever since that administration was elected, in a whole host of areas.

Mr Farnan: We are rectifying what happened under the Liberal administration, and that is taking place.


The Chair: We'll just wait. We'll just wait.

Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): I thought this was a non-partisan committee, Mr Chairman.

Mr Farnan: We've lost the inspectors and now we're putting those inspectors back into place.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): You're not on camera.

The Chair: Order, please. Mr Farnan, would you like to be a witness this morning?

Mr Farnan: I wouldn't mind.

The Chair: Well, you can join the witnesses if you wish. As far as I know, you're a member of this --


The Chair: Order, please. Mr Farnan, the members place questions to the witnesses and the witnesses answer the members. If we wish to have a discussion among the members about certain policy matters that did or did not take place, we can reserve time for that. Mr Cordiano has the floor. I'm going to add three minutes to Mr Cordiano's time.

Mr Cordiano: Thank you, Mr Chairman. The connection or the correlation I'm trying to make is that the number of inspectors relates to the level of safety and risks associated with the frequency of inspections, so the risk is increased when the frequency of inspection is reduced. Even though you claim the standards we have or the safety standard code is one of the highest compared to other jurisdictions, the fact of the matter is that if you do not have frequent inspections, you cannot reassure yourselves and the rest of the public that the safety standard code is being met, because you're relying on manufacturers' specifications.

The other aspect of this is installation. We heard numerous cases, quite a few in fact, where installations were the problem. In one instance, improper installation led to an accident resulting. Therefore, we cannot be reassured that this aspect of the entire operation is adequately being met.

Mr Walter: Let me respond, because I think what you're indicating is that we could hire an unlimited number of inspectors. They'd bring in their own revenue, so who cares. You would obviously be aware that this revenue has to be paid by somebody and we obviously don't want to bring on staff who are not required. I think we have a responsibility to use the resources we have. I have another whole part of a division to look after with many other inspectors and I want to make certain that I have the right resources in the right place. I would rather ensure that we had an inspector at a nuclear power station to make certain that was built properly, if that was the choice I had to make, given the level of safety equipment --

Mr Cordiano: Is that a choice you'd be making?

Mr Walter: Certainly, it would be a choice I'd be making in the assignment of staff.

Mr Cordiano: What I'm trying to say to you is that if you add additional elevator inspectors, they certainly bring in additional revenues to justify that. In fact, you have a backlog for inspections which can then overcome the revenue shortages you are referring to.

Mr Walter: Let me explain that I think the system we have in place -- we've talked about the elevator safety code. It is the best in North America. We require industry to do things that other jurisdictions do not do. We have the ability to react faster. We've adopted the national elevator safety code. Ontario has enhanced that and in fact Ontario led the way to the development of that.

We have the ability for the director to issue rulings, so we don't have to come back and do regulation changes. We lead the country in requiring safety equipment to be on the elevators. We require retrofits which no other jurisdiction does. We require the industry to report that those retrofits have been completed. We have enacted different regulations to improve the contractors' serviceability record. On April 1 of this year, there will be the formal use of log books. There is a different way of maintenance people doing inspections.

We have the ability to respond to those things very quickly. To simply throw staff at it in the middle of our developing a sophisticated risk assessment system may not necessarily be the best use of those resources. That's my point in assigning resources where they're best needed.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Cordiano. Your time has expired.

I have one short question of the deputy before we move on. You mentioned earlier that there had never been a mechanical failure. Could you give us your definition of what a mechanical failure is?

Mr Walter: Perhaps the best way for me to respond -- I have my figures here someplace, but I know them off the top of my head.

The Chair: I'd like the ministry's definition of "mechanical failure."

Mr Walter: Mechanical failure would be where the safety equipment failed and caused that fatality. In the four fatalities since 1989, there were two in Ottawa in 1989, one in Mississauga in late 1991 and one in Kitchener in late 1992. I shouldn't speak about the last one, because that is still under investigation and we're looking at different parts of the equipment, so I shouldn't refer to that one. Of the three before that, the one in 1991 was joyriding. The two in Ottawa in 1989 were both --


The Chair: I appreciate that. I didn't want to use the committee's time. All I wanted was a definition of a mechanical failure. I think I've got that. Mrs Marland, 10 minutes.

Mr Farnan: Point of clarification.

The Chair: Point of clarification?

Mr Farnan: Yes, like yourself. The delegation mentioned that the standards in Ontario were the best in North America. Does that mean of all the jurisdictions in the United States, of all the provinces in Canada, the standards in Ontario are the best and the highest?

Mr Walter: Yes.

Mr Farnan: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Mrs Marland, 10 minutes, or Mr Tilson.

Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): Can I have a point of clarification on Mr Farnan's question?

The Chair: I'll allow one short point.

Mr Sorbara: Just one short one?

Mr Derek Fletcher (Guelph): They're never short, Greg.

Mr Sorbara: The answer to Mr Farnan's question was yes. Just based on what Mr Farnan was saying earlier on, were all those new standards and this very high standard for Ontario developed since September 6, 1990, or did they exist beforehand? Is this a new thing that's happened under a new socialist regime in Ontario, or was there a great tradition in Ontario going back, actually, to a Tory administration of these high standards?

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr Walter: I'm not certain I can answer that, Mr Sorbara.

The Chair: Mr Tilson?


Mr Sorbara: I guess Ontario's always had the highest standards.

Mr Farnan: We've just improved on those high standards.

The Chair: We'll just wait.


Mr Farnan: Mr Chair, I believe Mr Sorbara is correct. There has been a good tradition in terms of previous administrations, but we want to improve on that.

Mr Sorbara: Then call an election.

Mr Farnan: You did, and you lost.

Mr Noel Duignan (Halton North): You never recognized that fact.

The Chair: There'll be no more points of clarification this morning.

Mr Sorbara: How about one at 2:15 this afternoon?

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): The question I have for Mr Walter or Ms Wolfson is that you've talked about the regulations you've been developing, and the minister, I recall, spent a considerable -- not a considerable, but some time in her brief opening statements to the estimates committee talking about the development of various codes, a B44 elevator safety code, whatever that is, and a number of other things. I don't want to get into that. I probably wouldn't understand half of them, but that isn't the criticism. It may well be that you have the best standards in North America or the world. That isn't the criticism the Provincial Auditor is directing towards your division.

The criticism is a concern of safety. Ms Wolfson says that safety has not been compromised. I'm sorry. The Provincial Auditor's report has raised a number of questions and has challenged that, and you simply can't say that safety is not being compromised. Whether you're talking of the current regulations or the current administrative procedures you've developed or the old ones, the auditor has commented on page 44 of the auditor's report, "Ministry standards call for periodic inspection of virtually all elevators in the province at least once every two years," whereas in fact, to use Mr Walter's words during the estimates committee and today, it's being done every five years.

You can have all the wonderful regulations in the world, and you may well. The difficulty is that they don't appear to be complied with. That's the allegation that's being made by the Provincial Auditor's staff, that you're not complying with your own regulations. I'll list right off that the very immediate concern is that of inspections.

Mr Walter: I think what the auditor meant by the two-year standard they quoted is not nor has it been a standard. You used the word "regulation." It is not a regulation that we inspect elevators every two years.

Mr Tilson: No, I read it out of the report, "ministry standards."

Mr Walter: Yes, and I'm saying it is not a standard. That's my point.

Mr Tilson: So the auditor is wrong.

Mr Walter: At one point there was an average inspection cycle of every two years, and maybe that's where the information came from.

Let me explain to you that if we inspected every elevator every two years, we'd be going to places we didn't need to go to and we'd be missing the ones that we need to get to. Some elevators are inspected every six months and some can wait for every five to six years.

There's a complaint in the auditor's report at some point where it says that of 6,000 new elevators installed in the last four years, two thirds haven't been reinspected. Obviously, those are the best elevators in the country. They have the safety equipment on them. There is no need for us to go back and inspect those within the first three or four years of their being installed, because of the thorough initial inspections.

The two years was an average of the ministry, but we do get to buildings. We have an assessed need, a risk assessment, however you want to frame it, where we go to buildings that need to be inspected on a more frequent basis. We could be there every six months.

Mr Tilson: Mr Walter, I'm trying to find the section in the report, and I hope I won't misquote the Provincial Auditor. The Provincial Auditor, I believe, is saying that your inspection procedure -- I'm not talking about your standards and regulations, whatever the words you've developed; I'm talking about what you're physically doing, the inspections -- is not adequately comparable to the rest of this country, that you're not even close. In fact, I look at the chart on page 43, which is entitled "Approximate Number of Elevating Installations Per Inspector -- By Province," and Ontario isn't doing very well, according to the Provincial Auditor.

To repeat some of the questions that have been made: "The number of elevators has risen by 45% since 1978. However, the number of elevator inspectors has decreased by 34%." I don't want to get into political philosophies; I'm talking about keeping the elevators in this province safe. The Provincial Auditor has raised some very serious concerns -- page 45 -- and not just the Provincial Auditor, but elevator manufacturers and branch managers. I'm really worried by the very last paragraph on page 45, which I'm going to read to you: "Branch managers estimated that around 10,000 elevators may not meet required safety standards. Furthermore, there have been cases in which elevator manufacturers have notified the ministry of potentially dangerous deficiencies in these devices after decades of operation."

I don't want to hear about all the wonderful paperwork you're developing. I want to talk about these concerns that the Provincial Auditor has brought to the public's attention.

Mr Walter: I need to repeat to you, Mr Tilson, that we are assigning our inspector resources to the places they need to be. That's something you have to hear very strongly. Where there are problems with elevators in buildings, we know of those. That's where we target our resources. I think the report shows that we're targeting our resources to those places.

I'll refer specifically to that last comment you made about the 10,000. I think that's an appropriate issue to raise. One of the branch managers did estimate that up to 10,000 elevators may not meet the standards set on electronic components. What we have found is that elevators have become more sophisticated over the last number of years. We have believed for the last year or two that we should probably be investing more resources in the hiring of an electronic engineer. But what that means -- the 10,000 elevators that may not meet those standards -- is that all those standards will have already been reviewed and signed off by a professional engineer in the industry.

When we talked about not having the electronic engineer expertise in the division, we just want to check what some other engineer has already said he professionally approves. That's the point. That's why taking one statement like that can make it sound worse than it is. Elevators are safe. What that says is that they may not meet the required safety standards, but you have to go back up to that first part. It all refers to the specialized electronic engineering expertise. The two paragraphs go together.

Mr Tilson: The Provincial Auditor has made the very damning statement, "The branch lacked specialized electronic engineer expertise to thoroughly review and test new elevator installations."

Mr Walter: Yes.


Mr Tilson: I know in your comments you're saying you're going to hire somebody. But the fact of the matter is, it's taken you all this time to do it.

I guess the next question I have is, okay, you're going to hire somebody. It says in one of your responses that you're going to hire; maybe you already have. You say it in the very last statement, that you're going to hire an electronic engineer at the beginning of the next fiscal year. Do you feel that the hiring of that individual will satisfy that concern that the Provincial Auditor has put forward? Will the Provincial Auditor still be able to make this allegation against you with this person having been hired?

Mr Walter: No, I don't believe so. I still have to go back and repeat that what we're doing is a second check of something that a professional engineer has already approved. When we hire -- in fact the competition is out now and we hope to have the person on board soon -- they will go through and they're not going to go and inspect elevators. Maybe that's the other point. I'm not sure whether that's clear. They're not going to go out and hit 10,000 elevators. They will sit down with the sophisticated equipment we have in the office and review the design. That's what we're talking about. We are not talking about sending out one electronic engineer to 10,000 elevators in the province.

Mr Tilson: In this same paragraph the auditor is saying that technology has changed over the last 30 years.

Mr Walter: Yes, we agree.

Mr Tilson: I may be reading the improper words in by the Provincial Auditor, but the Provincial Auditor has said, with all due respect, that the branch in its inspections has not kept up on that technology, that it has not met the demanding changes of this technology. I mean, things do change in 30 years.

I'd like to emphasize on the point. The Provincial Auditor has made a very serious allegation that you're not keeping up with technology, and you're saying that you're hiring one person in the next fiscal year. My question to you is -- again this paragraph under page 45 dealing with resource expertise -- can those allegations still be met with this person doing the job description that you'll be giving that person?

Mr Walter: Yes, I believe very much, and I want to go back. When the Provincial Auditor speaks about "resource expertise" on that section you're referring to, there is no reference to the inspector side. That reference, I recall from my discussions with the Provincial Auditor, related entirely to the one area of electronic engineering expertise and we are addressing that by hiring an electronic engineer who will be able to review the designs submitted by other professional engineers.

Mr Tilson: Thank you.

The Chair: Your 10 minutes have expired. Mr Fletcher, then Mr Farnan.

Mr Fletcher: I will just go from what Mr Sorbara was saying. I agree that the elevator inspections and everything else has been going along quite well and it's getting better. We can witness that.

As far as from the auditor's report, where do you see the legislation or the work in elevating devices going from here? What improvements are we going to make? I know you've already mentioned some. But what are the goals of your department further down the road?

Mr Walter: I had spoken a certain amount about the Index system. The Index system is a computer system of automated licensing, registration and inspection, and we have been implementing it for my whole division, the technical standards division. You must remember that we cover everything from elevating devices to the air-conditioning at the SkyDome to nuclear power stations to propane and natural gas and petroleum. We cover such things as the chairs you're sitting on and the teddy bear you probably gave to your grandson.

Mr Fletcher: Thanks, I don't have a grandson.

Mr Walter: I have to give you a range of what we're doing.

Ms Wolfson: He's not that old.

Mr Walter: Sorry. What we have done since 1990 is put our resources into a three-phased implementation of this system. The first two phases are completed. The third phase for our elevating devices branch will be completed in May. By the end of this year we'll have a very sophisticated system of assessing risk and assigning our inspectors.

The second part was about the inspector training program, and I won't go into that much except to say that of the nine trainees, three of them will be assigned. In fact, there are competitions open in both Ottawa and Thunder Bay to cover all the vacant districts.

Mr Fletcher: As far as elevating devices, approximately how many people do they move per year?

Mr Walter: We estimate that about six billion people take a ride in an elevator annually.

Mr Fletcher: How many deaths?

Mr Walter: There is, I suppose, on average one a year.

Mr Fletcher: So it's a lot safer to ride an elevator than to ride, perhaps, an automobile or a bicycle in downtown Toronto.

Mr Walter: Or perhaps even walk across the street.

Mr Fletcher: Or walk across the street. Thank you.

Mr Walter: I have not spoken about elevator mechanic training.

Mr Farnan: I wish to pursue that particular avenue.

Mr Walter: Okay, thank you. There are really three things we're doing to address the issue. The other way of ensuring that elevators are maintained to the code that we feel is the best is to ensure that the mechanics working on the elevators out there are trained to the highest standard. That was a recommendation made by a couple of coroners' juries, dating back to the deaths in the late 1980s, that the mechanics in the province be better trained. So we've been working very closely with the ministries of Skills Development and Labour, with industry representatives and with union representatives to develop a very comprehensive training and certification program for elevator mechanics, and we'll be bringing some recommendations forward to the minister in the near future.

Mr Farnan: This was precisely the area I wanted to pursue. I believe that all members in all political parties have a genuine concern for safety, and I take it that the questions emanating from the opposition benches have that basic concern. I am encouraged, let me say very clearly, that the standards in Ontario compare so favourably with other jurisdictions. It's not so long ago I sat in opposition and asked similar questions to those being raised by opposition members. I think it's healthy to have this critical analysis so that if improvements can be made, they indeed will be made.

I noticed from the information that I received and reviewed that there was some reduction in inspectors during a period of time. Without appearing to be partisan, during the previous administration there was indeed a reduction of inspectors. I was critical of that at the time, as I sat in opposition, and I am very pleased that, having been a member of a government that was duly elected back in September 1990, the minister and the ministry have responded specifically in the area of bringing back the number of inspectors to a par where it had been previously.

This isn't to deny Mr Sorbara's point that good initiatives were taken by previous administrations, both Conservative and Liberal, and of course the reality of the matter is that we want not only to take what is good, but it makes sense that we want to improve what is there. If there are legitimate areas of concern, then we want to address those.

I want to ask the delegation if you could elaborate, please -- because I think this is something that would be of great interest to the public -- on the whole area in terms of the training and certification program. I'd like to know more than simply that we're working with industry and labour. What are some of the avenues that you're pursuing with industry and labour, in a more specific way, that will give confidence to the public that when they ride the elevator, this will be a critical part in their safety?

Mr Walter: I suppose I should be careful of what I say, because the next meeting of the committee is not until the end of this month, and so I'm going to give you my own impressions of action thus far, and there's obviously not total agreement.

This tripartite committee, made up of government, industry and labour, has worked a couple of ways. They've set up a curriculum committee that is reviewing the content of a training program. There is already a training program offered by the International Union of Elevator Constructors. It's an international-based union, and that union has been sitting on the committee. We're looking at ways of enhancing that training and of expanding the qualifications.

We have another group, a regulation committee, that is simply sitting back and working on the kinds of regulations we needed to put this in order.

The kinds of things we would be looking at -- and please, this is still in draft form -- would be that before a mechanic would be allowed to work on his own he would be required to have X number of hours working in that particular area. If that was an installation, then he would require that. Those hours would have to be under specific supervision of someone we had already qualified. I don't want to get into the specifics of the number of hours because we're still going through that.

We're really looking at hands-on training. It is not a theoretical kind of program where we would expect people to go to school for long periods of time. It is really getting people out there in the industry, ensuring that the companies are providing the right kind of supervision and training and then having a way of testing people at the end of that, and they would have various levels of going through the training and certification.

Mr Farnan: In the union that you spoke of in terms of the certification, are there currently benchmarks within the certification program which is monitored or given by that union that are to the satisfaction of the ministry?

Mr Walter: Well, the training program -- I shouldn't say it is just union, because that's unfair. It is industry as well. The two of them cooperate in that training program. I shouldn't give you the impression that it is only union-run. We believe that it can be enhanced -- I guess that's the best way to say it -- or we wouldn't be doing this. If we felt that it was the best training program for elevator mechanics, if it applied to everybody in Ontario we wouldn't be bothered getting into this. I think we all believe there are ways that the system can be improved.

Mr Farnan: Could you tell me, when was the last time there was a review of the certification program by industry and labour? The program that is in place by this group, when was the last time this was reviewed and the benchmarks for that program reviewed?

Mr Walter: I'm not certain I can give you that information. I've been in my present position a little more than a year. I would assume that because industry and labour both participate in this program, they would have an ongoing review, but I'm sorry; I can't give you a definite answer.

The Chair: Time has expired for this morning.

Mr Farnan: One final question, because I think it's a very relevant one. Given the fact that the technology in this field is fairly rapid in its transition, I would think that certainly a tripartite involvement is needed. I think you need business, labour and the ministry working together to ensure that the new technologies are incorporated into the benchmarks of those individuals who are training for qualification, because it is absolutely critical that elevators being installed are installed by individuals who are thoroughly familiar with the up-to-date technology.

The Chair: Thank you. Time has expired for this morning. The committee will reconvene in this room at 2 pm.

The committee recessed at 1155.


The committee resumed at 1403.

The Chair: The standing committee on public accounts is called to order. The public accounts committee is continuing its review of the Provincial Auditor's report on the elevating devices branch of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. We had a number of questions this morning from the members and I know members are still interested in pursuing the matter. Mr Callahan, you have 10 minutes.

Mr Callahan: I'd like to get out of the history of this thing. I mean, it's one thing to dwell on what took place in various governments. I've always considered this committee to be terribly non-partisan. The aim of this committee is to ensure that government dollars are accounted for and that programs are effective.

Let me ask you, first of all, have there been any efforts on the part of the Ministry of Education, through either universities or community colleges, to set up a program for inspectors? The reason I say that is that it seems to me that with the shortcomings in safety, if there are any, it certainly would be desirable to have more inspectors. Your difficulty seems to be that they've all gone into the private sector where there were big dollars to be made, I guess. Are there any programs that have been set up that you're aware of or that are being set up by the ministry to provide training for people who might want to get into this field, since the job situation seems to be so horrendous and everybody's trying to figure out what their young people should do?

Mr Walter: We have been working with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, particularly around the community college level. One of the problems was that we probably weren't going to be hiring enough inspectors to warrant the community colleges going into a full class training program, but they have been of some assistance in establishing the trainee program that we have now and have expressed considerable interest in assisting us in the future if we do hire more.

Mr Callahan: Is that going to help you, though? I would think an inspector has to be more than somebody who just comes on staff for a week and learns the job.

Mr Walter: What we have found is that with the nine trainees we hired we particularly recruited from technical backgrounds in community colleges. They're community college graduates.

Mr Callahan: Do you then train them, give them the upgrading training?

Mr Walter: Then we give them the upgrading, hands-on training. We have a training manager within the branch to provide that. That's all done out in the field.

Mr Callahan: Can I assume from this that things are going to get much better and that should you be audited about a year from now, there will be sufficient inspectors to ensure that the inspections take place more than -- as I recall -- every three to five years, or whatever the report said?

Mr Walter: Some may still be inspected every three to five years, because that may be all they need to be, but in a year from now, yes, those nine trainees will be on board. What we're finding is that they bring such a different background that in fact they are teaching our present inspectors better ways to do the job. That's not a judgement of mine; that is a comment from a long-time inspector within the branch.

Mr Callahan: I have concerns in one very specific area in the report, where it said that some 22 contractors continued to be used as inspectors, whereas there were innumerable expressions of dissatisfaction with their work. That, to me, is rather scary. Maybe you'd like to clarify that. Is that a fact?

Mr Walter: The contractors aren't inspectors, so I want to clarify that. About 90% of the elevators in the province are serviced by registered contractors, contracting companies. I think there are about 200 of them in the province. They hire the mechanics to do the maintenance and the inspection as part of that maintenance. You used the word "inspector." I just don't want you to --

Mr Callahan: I'm looking more at the question of the 22 contractors who serviced. I would think servicing an elevator is as important as inspecting it.

Mr Walter: Some of those 22 contractor companies did get very poor ratings for parts of what they were doing. I think in the audit report the auditor suggested that we should take more "disciplinary action," in the words of the auditor, by revoking the registration or the licence of that contracting company.

Mr Callahan: What he does say is that their performance was rated as unacceptable since 1987. That's a long time to keep somebody on contract if his rating is unacceptable.

Mr Walter: What that refers to are the contracting companies that do the maintenance, and we deal with it on a site-specific basis, on a case-by-case basis. If we go in and revoke the registration of one maintenance contracting company, we not only affect that one building where it's doing the work; we affect the buildings all across Ontario, a city or wherever it's doing that work. If we don't have any concerns with the maintenance in five out of seven buildings, then we do it on a case-specific basis and speak to the contractor about those two specific buildings. That will show up as an unacceptable rating for those two buildings. We have taken action.


Mr Callahan: Mr Chair, would you do me the favour of letting me know when there's two minutes left, because I have one item I definitely want to ask a question about?

The Chair: You might get that item on the next round, Mr Callahan.

Mr Callahan: Well, it's of importance and I have to go and do something else, so if you'd let me know when I have two minutes left, I'll --

The Chair: I certainly will.

Mr Callahan: All right. You'll agree with me that servicing is as important as inspecting. It's like if I take my car in to have it serviced and the mechanic in servicing it finds something wrong; that's going to make my car safer. It would seem to me to be the same case in an elevator.

I don't like elevators to begin with. In fact when I ride them in this building, which I find absolutely incredible -- they're the worst elevators I've ever travelled in and half the time they don't stop or they stop a couple of inches below the floor. If we can't get them serviced here, I feel sorry for the people in other areas of the province. But would you not agree with me that servicing is important, and that if 22 of these people since 1987 have been considered to be unsatisfactory, those people should have something more than just a bad rating, should in fact be told they can't do the work any more?

Mr Walter: We deal with them on a case-specific basis. I have to repeat the answer that the serviceability, yes, is very important to ensure the safety, but if they only have a small number of their staff not performing to a standard, then we should deal with that on an individual basis and not penalize the whole company or the staff who are doing the service properly. I keep coming back to saying it's the case-specific that needs to be addressed.

Mr Callahan: Finally, before I run out of time, the fees for elevator inspections were increased dramatically as of September 1, 1992. Can you explain to me -- and maybe you can't -- why the cost or the fee for an elevator for the disabled, which is a lift, would have been increased the same dramatic amount as those for commercial elevators?

It seems to me the disabled have lifts which may take them a very short distance. I just don't understand the reason why, if we're trying to look after people who are disabled and handicapped in this province, we would whack them with the same fee we'd whack the commercial elevator operators with, particularly since it sounds like your fee amounts -- even though you don't get them and they go into the great black hole called the consolidated revenue fund, why would you whack them with the same amount or why would it be necessary to whack them with the same amount, people who are disabled?

Mr Walter: I just want to clarify. You said that the fees for elevators went up considerably, and that only applied to the lifts for handicapped. It went from $50 to $52.50 for elevators. You're correct. The fee for the devices for the handicapped went from $52.50 to $210.

Mr Callahan: They quadrupled.

The Chair: Two minutes, Mr Callahan.

Mr Walter: That is not a licence, though; that is the fee we charge for the initial review of the design, and we were simply trying to raise the fee in line with the review of designs for all other devices.

You should remember that those devices are probably installed at maybe upwards to $25,000. I would guess the average price is about $15,000. It was simply a reflection, we felt, of the value we were providing in ensuring that the design was proper and safe in the beginning. It did go up. It was simply a way for us to try and reflect our true cost in providing that service.

Mr Callahan: I certainly hope my good friend the Treasurer is listening, because it seems to me that if people are disabled, they have no way to get from point A to point B other than perhaps using a lift. I can walk up the stairs. It's probably better for me, and I just don't see the rationale, other than it being a grab of dough just holus-bolus without caring whether or not these people are disabled as opposed to being healthy. I find that really tough to swallow.

The Chair: One minute.

Mr Callahan: That's for the ingestion of the Treasurer, if he happens to tune in to this program. I know you people don't set the policy.

The Chair: Mrs Marland, 10 minutes.

Mrs Marland: I'm afraid, Mr Walter, I'm going to be quite direct with you, because I really think we're pussyfooting around this issue a little today, everybody's being very cool and calm and quiet. I heard you say this morning a couple of times -- unfortunately we don't have Instant Hansard so I can't quote you exactly. Twice you made reference to the fact that you have other responsibilities. I know you said something like, "There's a whole range of what I have to do here, you know." You said something about a choice of what kinds of inspectors and where have a priority, and you are responsible for how much you can afford to do. You mentioned elevators versus safety at a nuclear power plant, if I'm correct.

Mr Walter: Yes.

Mrs Marland: You also said that another range of what you're responsible for is everything from the chairs we sit on to the teddy bears we give our grandchildren. Well, right now, none of those are issues that have been identified by the auditor. None of those are the issues that this committee is dealing with here today.

We're dealing here today with something that, by the grace of God, I think we've probably been very fortunate. When the deputy, whom I respect very much says, "There haven't been any fatalities that can be directly tied to elevator maintenance," then I think, thank the good Lord.

That the deputy tells us we have 35,000 elevating devices in this province and the auditor tells us that 10,000 are not inspected is a pretty scary figure. You have sat here today, and a number of times you've said, "We have the best elevator safety code in North America, and we lead the country in retrofits." Well, I'm sorry. Having the best safety code in North America and not enforcing it makes about as much sense as -- well, I can give you a firsthand example. We also have fairly good -- could be improved -- environmental laws in this province, but I've just gone through an environmental assessment hearing with a company in my riding, and it doesn't amount to a hill of beans if it's not enforced. That's the problem. That's the potential risk.

You also said something about "sophisticated risk assessment" this morning. I don't think that's what the public is interested in. I think the public is interested in knowing that instead of denying what the auditor has told you, you really accept it.

You have a colossal statement in your response; I find this absolutely colossal. You say in response to the auditor, "We do not agree that inspection efforts were inadequate to ensure compliance with safety standards," then you go on and give two major points about what it is you're going to do to address the inadequacy of inspection. You can't say on the one hand, "We don't have a problem, everything is rosy in our garden; we're doing our job, and the public is protected and they're safe," and on the other hand go ahead and acknowledge that perhaps there are areas and outline what it is you're doing to remedy them.

Again on the inspection focus, and I think Mr Callahan drew attention to this, the auditor says that nearly 35% of Ontario elevators were serviced by 22 contractors whose performance has been consistently rated as unacceptable by the ministry as far back as 1987. I want to know why those people are still in business. How is it that 22 contractors whose performance has been unacceptable for five years are still in business? That's not protecting the public.


I think we've been very fortunate here. sorry. Safety standards are meaningless if they're not enforced. I think this is ivory tower paper talk, it really is. The reason I'm upset about it is that the more I get into this report, especially since I've been led through the positions and the answers this morning between your ministry and what the auditor is saying -- the auditor is totally independent, thank goodness. The auditor has done a job for the people in this province by identifying areas that are of concern, and then I hear you come in here this morning and say, "Well, we've got the best elevator safety code in North America." Whoopee. The best elevator code we may have, but you can't possibly say what the next sentence is: "We've got the best elevator code in North America, and it's being enforced. We know we're safe." How can you say that if, by the auditor's figures, almost a third, 10,000 of the 35,000 elevator devices you're responsible for, are not inspected?

When you talk about the fact that we've got new technology, we've got electronic this, that and the other -- I mean, I'm not an engineer; I don't pretend to be. But I don't have to be, because the auditor has identified a problem here. I don't have to be an elevator engineer to try to decide, on behalf of the public, whether four, five or six years -- and we're talking, apparently, about five or six years without inspections. I don't have to decide whether the public is at risk, but I think somebody here has to answer for the responsibility -- I've forgotten, Madam Deputy, what number of rides you refer to.

Ms Wolfson: Some six billion annually.

Mrs Marland: So that means six billion human beings have stepped into an elevator with the faith and trust that they're going to be safe. I suppose if you start making comparisons with the number of people who fly in aircraft or who drive cars on our hazardous highways and so forth, you can come up with all kinds of statistics about just how safe our elevators are. But either we have a system where we have safety standards for a reason, or why do we have them? If we have this wonderful standard of the best elevator safety code, there must be a reason we need it, and if it exists in the first place and we need it, then surely we need to know whether it's being met.

Interestingly enough, I have a major elevator company, the Dover company, in my riding, which I suddenly recalled at lunchtime. I wish I had had time to call them to see, from their perspective, what they feel about the protection of their industry by reputation. But the point is that if we have new elevators and new technology and it's dependent on sophisticated electronic improvements, then it also follows that the training of the inspectors has to be up to the sophistication of the equipment. And is there any proof that anything, because it's new, is necessarily any safer, unless it's inspected?

I come back again to the fact that everything you in the office say down here and that you have written on paper sounds great until the auditor starts to identify the concerns that are very evident. As I say, they are independent. People can perceive that I'm playing a partisan role, but I can tell you, if I were sitting over there, I would be expressing the same concerns I'm expressing now. This has nothing to do with a partisan attack on whoever the government is at the moment, because as far as I know, you've probably all been in the civil service for more than seven years.

But somebody's got to explain to me how one inspector in Ontario has apparently -- this graph the auditor gave us says that the approximate number of elevating installations per inspector in Ontario is 1,400, and in British Columbia it's about 600 and on a various scale between three other provinces. What is it? Do they have simpler elevating devices in British Columbia? I doubt it very much, yet in British Columbia you have 600 per inspector and in Ontario we have 1,400.

The final thing I'd like you to comment on is that if all of this is true, you might say with justification, as some of the other ministries are having to say -- I've gone through this with estimates -- that you have cutbacks and you can't meet the requirements for staffing because of cutbacks. That doesn't follow, that just doesn't carry with this particular question, because we know the inspection fee covers the cost of the inspections. In your budget, you actually have a reduction of $272,000 and an increase of 1.1% for administration; you reduce the budget by $250,000 under the inspection of elevating devices.

The Chair: Thank you, Mrs Marland. Mr Hayes.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chair, surely that wasn't 10 minutes.

The Chair: It was 12 minutes.

Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): Is my time going on now, Mr Chair, while she's interrupting?

The Chair: No, I'm adding to your time, Mr Hayes.

Mr Hayes: Thank you very much, Mr Chair. I will allow some time for the witnesses to respond.

Actually, along the same lines as Mrs Marland, the Provincial Auditor has indicated that there has been very lenient disciplinary action against violators, elevator contractors. What really concerns me is that the ministry took limited disciplinary action against 22 contractors who serviced 12,000 elevators despite the fact that many of them have had their performances rated as unacceptable since 1987. What I'd like to know is why this has been allowed to continue since 1987. I would like to know what steps you're going to take to correct this situation and why you haven't laid charges or why licences haven't been cancelled or revoked if these are facts.

Mr Walter: I'd like to comment on that. I don't believe we have been lenient. I want to repeat that of the 22 contracting companies, we're not talking about the total performance of everybody who works in that company. There might be only one or two people doing maintenance in that company that we find unacceptable. We take case-by-case action against them.

You asked what we have available to us. We obviously have the formal method of simply requiring the company to attend at our offices and review the unacceptable rating. That is the best thing we can do. That gets very good action. We can revoke their registration. We can take them to court. There have been 19 prosecutions raised in this branch in the last three years. We have six more ongoing right now. Of those 19, 18 were successful, from our point of view: The company was found guilty and there was a substantial penalty assigned. We believe it's not just revoking a registration to discipline contractors.

Mr Hayes: As a former health and safety representative, I've always said there's no sense having these rules and regulations if we're not going to enforce them. What you're saying is that the findings of the auditor are not really fact. Is that what you're saying, or is it a lack of understanding of the system?

Mr Walter: I think the Provincial Auditor did an excellent job, but there is a different opinion, I believe, on what is the best way to discipline the contractor. I don't disagree with the Provincial Auditor that one way to do that is simply to revoke the registration of that contractor. There are consequences of that action.

Some of the consequences are that if we revoke that registration, we take away the ability of that contractor to service other buildings where the staff are performing to the standard that we expect. If we take away that registration and that elevator is not serviced, then the elevator is put out of business. So we don't hurt the contractor as much as we hurt the 300 people or whatever living in that building or working in that building. It's not an action without serious consequences.


Ms Wolfson: If I could just add to that, Mr Hayes, it is a balance.

Mr Hayes: Sorry?

Ms Wolfson: There is a balance that obviously we are looking to and the balance must always be on the side of safety. There is no question in our minds that one always has to weigh it on the side of safety, but we do have gradations of ways of dealing with contractors who, depending on the circumstance, can be brought and can have different penalties assessed according to the gravity of the offence or the lack of knowledge or whatever. We're attempting to use those instruments in an appropriate manner.

Mr Hayes: Okay, fine. Thank you.

Mr Walter: If I could add one final clarification, I want to make clear that "unacceptable" does not necessarily even relate to safety. It may relate to such operational things as housekeeping. The two don't necessarily correlate.

Mr Fletcher: That's a pretty good explanation. I can see where there could be a mixup in the way things work.

Let me go to another point from the auditor's report, that ministry standards generally require that elevators be inspected every two years. Is that a ministry standard?

Mr Walter: That's a good question and it gives me an opportunity, I think, to provide some clarification. There was a previous computer system that we had within the branch that brought figures forward that we would do the inspection every two years. I don't want to use the word "standard" because that was never established. I can only tell you that from my sort of 15 months on the job, what I have understood is that the two years was an average time of doing the inspections. But the word "standard" may have come into use in the old system.

We have recognized that the old system did not give us what we needed to best assign staff, so we've invested considerable time and money in putting in a new system, the Index system, which will help us do that. But whether you use the word "average" or whether you use the word "standard," we will still come back and say that some need to be done every six months and some need to be done every five to six years.

Mr Fletcher: So had it been written somewhere that the average or the standard was three to five years, then the auditor's report would have gone by that standard rather than something that has been there for time immemorial but has since had to change because of the way things have changed in the elevator system.

Mr Walter: I think the auditor would agree that when they did the report last summer we were just getting -- I think we only had Release I of the new system going.

Mr Fletcher: Right; so things have changed.

Mr Duignan: I just have a couple of quick questions. The shortage of inspectors: Would that be due in part to the fact that the inspectors can get more money in the private sector rather than working for the ministry?

Mr Walter: It probably isn't true now, but it was true at one point, yes.

Mr Duignan: What was the discrepancy?

Mr Walter: The salary of an inspector was probably about $48,000. I know that in the late 1980s when construction was really going, especially in Toronto, with overtime, some of them were making $80,000.

Mr Duignan: Did that in some way contribute to the decline?

Mr Walter: Obviously, we weren't getting people who wanted to come and work for us when they could go and make substantial money someplace else.

Mr Duignan: Has that salary range now closed because of the recession, and people are hanging in for roughly the same salary amount?

Mr Walter: A couple of things happened. The ministry looked at reclassifying the inspectors. We did it for every inspector in the division because we were faced with the same thing. They are making, I think, maybe $4,000 or $5,000 more. They're up in the low-$50,000 range now. But of course the different economy has made it much different as well.

Mr Duignan: If the building boom takes off again, could the same situation arise again? All these people who are now being trained by the ministry, when they have become trained, could they disappear to the private sector?

Mr Walter: I suppose that might happen, yes. I suppose if we ever went back to that kind of economy, it might.

Ms Wolfson: I may be incorrect, and I'll ask Mr Walter to correct me, but I think that because we are now much more heavily in the business of training our own and are getting junior people who grow with our system, we hope to invest in our people and have them invest in the branch. Indeed, if the private sector burgeons, and I guess we all hope it does, not from the elevating devices branch's perspective but from that of the economy in general, we're always faced with competing.

Mr Duignan: In fact, the taxpayers could invest money in training these individuals and lose them with an upturn in the economy?

Mr Walter: But there's a positive aspect to that, and we've discussed that within the branch. I don't think the province could make a better investment than spending a year or two in training inspectors to come in and work within the division, to work for five years learning all this, learning the standards, participate in the writing of standards and the monitoring of contractors and then have them move out into the industry.

There's nothing that says people coming into government from the industry is the best way to do it. There might be a very substantial payoff for us to do that short training and then let them go back out and have more and more people who we have trained to a high standard out there doing the service.

The Chair: Thank you. We'll start our second round of questions; 15 minutes, Mr Sorbara.

Mr Sorbara: Thank you, Mr Chairman. I don't think I'm going to be 15 minutes on this topic.

Mrs Marland: Five minutes.

Mr Sorbara: Mrs Marland, who didn't even get through her first question last time, could --

The Chair: Members usually start off by saying that, but they usually take all their time.

Mr Sorbara: I haven't heard Mrs Marland say that ever. She can have whatever of my time I don't use up, subject to your discretion. You decide how long we'll question. You are the keeper of the clock.

I have a rather different perspective, sir, on this issue, and I do not mean any disrespect whatever to the Provincial Auditor who, in his report, has examined a variety of areas that in his view and the view of the Provincial Auditor's department need some consideration by the public. That's why there's a report here and there are conclusions that: "Although ministry standards generally require elevators to be inspected every two years" -- we've had discussions about that -- "inspections were done on a five- to six-year cycle. Other provinces are generally on an annual inspection cycle." That seems to be the heart and soul of the auditor's conclusions.

I began by saying I had a different perspective on this issue and the operation of the elevating devices branch of the ministry. I had the opportunity, for a year and a couple of months, to be the minister responsible for the elevating devices branch. I simply want to put on the record before this committee that I was, during the course of that year, extremely impressed about how well this branch did its work. Even during that time we had lengthy discussions about inspections and the need for inspections.

What gave me concern was the kind of speech Mrs Marland gave, and this was heard by the general public, suggesting somehow that one is taking a risk getting into an elevator, being one of the six billion rides in an elevator, in the province of Ontario and that somehow, because of the failure of this ministry or where this ministry is wanting, that is a larger risk than is necessary in Ontario.

My own conclusion, at least between 1989 and 1990, was that yes, there is a risk. There's a risk in walking down a sidewalk, there's a risk in getting up in the morning, and there's a risk in going to bed at night, but when you compare Ontario with all of North America, and therefore all of the world, we really do have the highest standards.

Although the public might not really be aware of this, inspections -- that is, the government inspector going out and looking at a piece of machinery or looking at a building in progress or inspecting whatever it is that the government inspector inspects -- are only one of the ways in which we ensure safety. Some of the other ways we ensure safety are in code requirements, in raising standards for the device itself, in insurance standards, in self-inspection, in regulating contractors, and a variety of other mechanisms that we use to regulate behaviour and regulate machinery that is inherently dangerous.


Just for example, sir, I could tell you that in the province of British Columbia, in the city of Vancouver, it's required that every year you take your vehicle in for an inspection. In Ontario we don't do that, but that doesn't mean to say that we have a higher rate of accidents or that our automobiles are any less safe. That's just not the case, and I think the data would substantiate my conclusions in that regard. So I am not as concerned that we have a different cycle for inspections, because what we do in other areas, including the regulation of contractors and health and safety and a variety of other things, ensures that we have the highest standards and the best system of enforcement of any jurisdiction in North America, and my experience as minister over the course of a year and a couple of months confirms me in that view. I don't think we've got particularly better over the course of the past two years under the New Democratic Party, or that our standards have significantly deteriorated.

Mr Tilson: Is the accord still on?

Mr Sorbara: No, the accord's off.

Mrs Marland: No, he's still the minister.

Mr Sorbara: No, I'm not the minister any more. But people watch this, and it's very important not to create a sense of hysteria that, "My God, I'm not sure I want to get on an elevator down at Commerce Court West and go up 54 floors." There is a 0.00% chance that that elevator will fail, and an even slighter risk that because of the failure of that elevator there will be harm done. But to the extent that we can control and manage and regulate that activity in Ontario, we do a pretty good job.

I believe that probably there are budgetary constraints on the incumbent government because of the shortfall in revenue and the mismanagement of the economy. It doesn't give the assistant deputy minister all of the resources that he needs for inspectors and to carry out the other activities that regulate this activity, but by and large, I think we're still doing a pretty good job.

I should say that these high standards did not just come about during the period of 1985-90, when our party was in power. There is a tradition that goes well back in this area, and it's not all on the part of government. It's also because in Ontario, our building standards and the quality that we apply to construction, both in residential construction and in the most sophisticated high-rise construction, are, again, among the best in the world.

I accept the auditor's analysis. I question this business of contractors who have not met certain standards. The auditor mentions 22 contractors. I guess I acknowledge that there would be instances where individuals working for those contractors fell short of a standard, but if every time that happened we applied that standard -- do away with the contractor; delist the contractor -- to ministers in the government of Ontario, there would be no one available to serve in the New Democratic Party cabinet --

Mrs Ellen MacKinnon (Lambton): Low blow.

Mr Duignan: You were doing so well until you said that.

Mr Sorbara: -- or perhaps in a Liberal or a Conservative cabinet either. So I accept the assistant deputy minister's ability and response in terms of regulating those contractors. I think we can do a better job, frankly. There are a lot of areas in which we can do a more effective job. But I think the progress that is going to be made in getting even a better safety record is not going to be by way of putting more money towards inspectors.

I guess I want to end up with a question either to the deputy or the assistant deputy as to where he thinks this business of regulation overall is going. One way is to inspect every month, every six years, every decade, but there are other aspects, including private regulation, including advances in technology and other areas, that enhance our ability to safely regulate this area. I just want a speculative view about where this thing is going in the future.

Mr Walter: I hope I have as much time to respond as you had to ask.

Mr Sorbara: It's up to the Chairman. I'm done.

Mr Walter: We're in the middle, both in the ministry and in the division, of reviewing a number of ways of delivery of service. For me to speculate might be inappropriate, because we've not had the opportunity to come forward and give the minister our recommendations. But if you look at other jurisdictions --

Mr Sorbara: She's busy gambling in Windsor, so speculate in any event.

Mr Walter: There are other jurisdictions that would suggest that we should simply set the best standards, that government should be involved in establishing the highest safety standards, and that we should enforce compliance through different ways. Perhaps you might look at having a private inspection group, like an insurance company does inspections, so that government might take a different role. That's done in other jurisdictions, especially in the United States.

There are different ways of forming different partnerships with industries, different ways we can work on setting directions. In this particular area, this past summer I was approached by the presidents of three elevator companies, including the one in Mrs Marland's riding, asking if we would partake with them in the standardization, the harmonization, of elevator and escalator safety codes across North America. What has been acknowledged is that our code is superior to that of any other jurisdiction, and the other jurisdictions are willing to work with us to come to our level.

There are those kinds of partnerships, so for me to speculate and to say that in five years, in doing the regulations, we'd have more or fewer inspectors, I'm not certain. I'm fairly certain that in five years we'll be doing it differently than we are now.

Mr Sorbara: Is it safe to say that government inspection -- that is, a civil servant going out to inspect an elevator, competent, well trained -- is only one and perhaps a less and less important component of the overall regulation of safety with elevating and escalating devices?

Mr Walter: Yes, that's correct.

Ms Wolfson: If I could add one tiny point to that, Mr Sorbara, the other increasingly important variable is the technology. I know that Mrs Marland referred to it. But more and more important is that we can develop the kinds of sophisticated tools where we can allocate risks depending on historical performance of specific components. We will be able to pinpoint the resources better. More important than whether or not we have X number will be, where are we using them and can we indeed do a better job of putting them where they will count the most? It's not a science -- indeed, resource allocation is an art -- but we are using more and more technology to do that. I think it's one of the more exciting things we can do, to use the innovations in technology to do that. The ministry has put about $6.7 million into this technology just so we can do exactly that: use resources in a far more efficient and effective manner.

Mr Sorbara: Can you find a way to speed up the elevators at the Workers' Compensation Board so they won't have to move and build a $200-million building that ain't necessary?

Ms Wolfson: I wouldn't possibly answer that.

Mr Sorbara: I'm done.

The Chair: Since Mr Sorbara has two minutes left over on his time, I'd like to ask a short question. I keep hearing that we have the best code or standards in North America. How did the ministry come to that conclusion? Is it by the number of pages we have in our code, the number of words, or did you review all 50 states and nine other provinces? How did you come to that conclusion? You've said it so often now with such confidence that there must be some explanation.


Mr Walter: Really, as Mr Sorbara said, there has been a long-standing practice within this division and within the elevating devices branch --

The Chair: I'm not sure I believed Mr Sorbara when he said it, either. I want to know how the ministry can say we have the best code in North America, the best standards.

Mr Walter: Because we have continually led the development of the code in Canada, through the Canadian Standards Association, through the Standards Council of Canada. And because of the ability we have to react faster -- we do not have to go through a regulation change as a director's rulings -- and because of our way of assessing risk and assessing need, we believe we know where the problems are in elevators, and we react very quickly. So when there was a problem with joyriding a number of years ago, we took action to put retrofitted equipment on the elevators to try to stop that as much as possible. We did that before any other jurisdiction.

The Chair: I have to apologize for pressing this matter, but how do you know you react faster than California or British Columbia?

Mr Walter: Because of our contact with the industry. We meet with the elevator industry, the manufacturers, on a regular basis. We have an advisory committee, and they are across North America. We also have people who sit on international standards associations. In fact, the director of the elevating devices branch is unable to be here today because he's leaving to travel to Britain to participate in setting international standards. We're not paying for that; it's done at the cost of the standards council. We are recognized in North America and internationally as the leader.

The Chair: Do we have fewer accidents than anyone else per capita, per ride?

Mr Walter: No, I can't tell you that, because of the figures we get from some other jurisdictions.

The Chair: Okay, I appreciate that. Not knowing whether or not we are less accident-prone or more accident-prone in the use of elevators, I fail to see how any of us -- it doesn't matter what experience we've had -- can say we have the best standards. If a person drives a vehicle 200 kilometres a day and that person's driving record is compared to another person or group of people who drive 200 kilometres a day, the amount of tickets, infractions and/or accidents incurred will quickly tell us who is the most capable, the safest and I guess most courteous driver. Without having all of this information, I have to remain somewhat sceptical of anyone's claim here today that we are in fact superior to anyone else in North America.

I've used up the two minutes that Mr Sorbara had remaining on his time. Mr Tilson, you have 15 minutes.

Mr Tilson: I'd like to continue with this subject and ask a question to Mr Peters or members of his staff. Mr Peters, at the outset of your report you stated that you interviewed representatives of an all-industry committee representing the National Elevator and Escalator Association and the Canadian Elevator Contractors' Association. Can you or a member of your staff tell us what these representatives told you about specifically the inspection process the province of Ontario has?

Mr Ezio Osti: As far as the inspection process was carried out, they had concerns in the area of coverage and in the area of enforcement, whether strong enough enforcement was being taken with contractors and whether enough elevators were being inspected on a regular basis.

In addition to that, during the course of our review, we interviewed and sent out questionnaires to the inspectors who are doing the actual inspection of elevators. We interviewed and sent questionnaires to about 60% of them, and these inspectors are telling us that they're operating on a two-year cycle and that they're not getting out to enough elevators to cover off their inspection cycle. They did set a standard for us to say that was the standard they were operating under, so they themselves had concerns in the area of enforcement and in the area of coverage. This is coming right from the interviews and discussions --

Mr Tilson: Could I stop you right there and ask Mr Walter to comment on that?

Mr Walter: I think there were two things that were said. One was the discussion with the all-industry committee and the other was the discussion with the inspectors.

Mr Tilson: You're right. He didn't really answer my question, but he did get into an area which is of concern, and I'd like you to address that.

Mr Walter: The comment was that 60% of the inspectors responded, and they felt they weren't doing it to this two-year average inspection, that they felt they weren't getting out there enough. I can understand that from an inspector's point of view, in that the inspector has seen the decrease in numbers over the years, and they have seen the increase in some of the installations. They would like us to move ahead as fast as we can with the index program to get the resources there and to bring the trainees on board.

That doesn't surprise me from the people who are out there where the rubber hits the road, where they are trying to do those inspections every day, but I don't think you would find any one of them who would say that elevators are unsafe because of this situation.

Mr Tilson: That gets to the real nub of the issue. I'm really concerned with the inspection issue, because I agree with Mrs Marland: With all due respect, I don't think you're responding to the auditor's report adequately, for my purposes.

I refer you to page 44 of the report, where there are about four or five bullets I'm going to read to you. These are observations the Provincial Auditor made as a result of speaking with people in the industry and the inspectors and their own observations and their own inquiries.

"We noted:

"Non-compliance rates had virtually doubled in the last 10 years. In 1992, 50% of inspections detected non-compliance requiring follow-up, compared with 24% in 1981. Given the current inspection backlog, the amount of undetected non-compliance could be significant.

"The nature and extent of non-compliance had also worsened. At the time of our audit, deviations averaged 2.6 violations per inspection, compared with 1.3 in 1978, and these violations were more serious in nature.

"The number of minor accidents had risen from 384 in 1988 to 508 in 1990.

"Coroners' juries investigating fatal elevator accidents have recommended that inspection coverage be improved.

"A recent ministry study indicated that the cost of hiring additional inspectors could be more than offset by the inspection fees generated."

Mr Walter, everyone -- the inspectors, the industry, the Provincial Auditor, coroners' juries -- is not pleased with the inspection process we have in the province of Ontario, and I'd like you to tell me what you have proposed.

You told me at the estimates, back on November 3, that you now have 33 inspectors; this was back in November. I asked you about the year before, and you didn't have that information; you explained to me that you'd only been on the job a year and weren't aware of that, although you undertook to provide it to me, and I haven't received it. You did say that from the year before it may have dropped one or two. Your answer was, "Staff are retiring." You're looking at me inquisitively. That's what you said to me when I asked you that question.

Not only are we not providing more inspectors because of the tremendous number of elevators being constructed in this province, but you're having fewer inspectors. I would like you to respond to the Provincial Auditor's comments that I just read to you from page 44.

Mr Walter: Can I respond first, Mr Tilson, to the fact that you said we did not respond to the questions you raised? I have a copy here of the response I submitted to you, sir. I apologize for that not getting to you.


Ms Wolfson: I think they had been provided to the estimates committee, Mr Tilson. I'm not sure the committee process has then forwarded them to you.

Mr Tilson: I apologize. I haven't received them, but if you sent them to the committee, I haven't yet received them.

Mr Walter: Then you want me to respond to what you read on page 44. Let's look initially at the non-compliance rates and at the nature and extent of non-compliance worsening, the first two bullet points.

At the time the Provincial Auditor reviewed the branch, we were focusing much more on initial inspections because of the number of them coming on line, and we were doing periodic inspections. Periodics are the ones that we do after the elevator is installed. Because of the number of them coming forward at that time, we focused more of our resources on the initials.

Mr Tilson: On which?

Mr Walter: On the initial inspections, to make sure the elevator was installed properly.

Mr Tilson: I'm sorry. I'm going to be rude and interrupt you, because I think you're getting off an area that I'd like to zero in on. I think you misunderstand where I'd like to zero in on.

All of these criticisms that are referred to that are made by the Provincial Auditor, the coroners' juries, the inspectors are simply saying that there aren't enough of them. In fact it's been suggested, and your own study indicates, that the cost of hiring additional inspectors could be more than offset by the inspection fees generated. So It's not a matter of money. For some unearthly reason, you've chosen not to hire more inspectors to meet the tremendous number of elevators that have increased, that have been set out very accurately, or in much detail, in the Provincial Auditor's report. For some reason, you say you have all these wonderful regulations, but you're not providing a process to make sure those regulations and standards are being met. That's where I'd like you to go.

Mr Walter: I apologize. All right.

As I said, there is the Index program, the other things we're doing with the trainees. If you look at the fact that we have a very sophisticated system coming on board, if you look at the fact that we have been training our own inspectors and those will be coming on board within the next couple of months, we are addressing the issue of the level of inspectors. We certainly expect, within the next three to five years, some eight to 12 inspectors to retire.

You talked about the revenue. If someone said to me, "Here's 10 more inspectors tomorrow morning; take them," I would probably take them. But I would want to ensure that the staff we have or the staff that somebody was going to give me were being assigned in the right spot. The last thing I should do is hire more inspectors, put in a sophisticated risk management system, bring on board nine young people who've come to work with us and be trained with us, deal with the backlog that might be cleaned up in 12 months, have the new system on line in the same period of time, and 18 months from now have more inspectors than I need. That would be a waste of the resources.

You're asking me if I want unlimited staff. I have to tell you --

Mr Tilson: No, I didn't ask you that. I repeated the allegations that are made by the Provincial Auditor's staff, the coroners' juries and the inspectors themselves, who simply say that there are insufficient inspectors to determine whether or not the regulations and standards you have set forward in this province, which you are very proud of and I'm not going to challenge that; that sounds fine -- you haven't provided an adequate inspection system to determine whether or not those standards are being met.

Ms Wolfson: I'd like to address that. For the technical expertise, of course, I'll defer to Mr Walter and Mr Benn, but your question is very similar to that of Mrs Marland and I didn't get an opportunity to respond to that.

Mr Tilson: My question's a little shorter.

Ms Wolfson: Just a touch.

I want to talk about enforcement as a process. I think one of the difficulties, and the reason I do not want it to appear -- I hope it's not appearing that the ministry is saying the auditor is wrong and we're right and we refute what he's saying and, you'll forgive me, we're being pigheaded about it.

Mr Tilson: You said they're wrong.

Ms Wolfson: I really don't want that.

Mr Tilson: But Ms Wolfson, you said that. I'm sorry.

Ms Wolfson: I want to explain why we are taking the position we are. Enforcement is a process. It's a continuum. The reason we talk about high standards is because that's where it starts. It's not where it stops. It's not ivory tower. It's not just paper that we're putting there for people to refer to and put on the back burner.

It starts with a very high standard and a code that everyone must comply with and that the professional engineers have to certify on a continuing basis. Mr Walter and Mr Benn can speak to the frequency of people within the contractors who must, according to their professional ethics and obligations, hold themselves to a very high standard.

That's where we start. Thy the code is so important and that's why standards are so important, not because they're in a book but because that's where you start. Add to that the implementation of safety, and that starts for me with a risk-management system.

Clearly, we are never going to be in a position, nor would the public want us, in my view, to be in a position where you overresource anything. We don't have that luxury. So you take the resources and you say, "What's the optimum level with the best standards and where do you put them?" You take that risk-management system and you add it, if you will. It's the next layer on a very high standard. Then you inspect, and you inspect according to the standards and the risk allocation.

It is therefore our view -- and I think this is what Mr Walter explained very well -- that our inspectors are highly professional. They'd like to be going out and inspecting all the time and being very confident, and that's right and that's what they should be doing, and it's our job to ensure that we are trying to find that balance of the most appropriate risk, the most appropriate resources and inspecting according to what's needed.

There is, in our view, no magic to a two-year rotation. Some will be far more than two years, older ones, and the new ones will be perhaps less than that. I think it is important that inspection be seen in the context of an enforcement continuum.

The Vice-Chair (Mr Joseph Cordiano): Mr Tilson, you have two minutes.

Mr Tilson: Thank you. I get very nervous when I go up in an elevator and I see a signature of a Liberal cabinet minister signing an inspection report.

Mr Callahan: I know. It's Peter Kormos's that bugs me.

The Vice-Chair: Then why take an elevator?


Mr Tilson: I'm going to keep on this because, you know, that's great what you say.

Mr Callahan: It would be worse if it were a Tory.

Mr Tilson: I didn't mean it to be a play on words, but sometimes that's the best thing.

In any event, the auditor's report states that in 1978, on the average, Ontario elevators were inspected annually. Now it's five to six years. Secondly: "Approximately 40% of Ontario's elevators were overdue for inspection. The backlog ranged from 12% in one district to 62% in another. Two thirds of the 6,000 elevators installed in the last four years had not been reinspected since their original installation."

I'm sorry. With all due respect, I don't agree with what you've said, the coroners' juries don't agree with it, the Provincial Auditor doesn't agree with it and the very inspectors who are inspecting these elevators don't agree with it. You can have all the new systems that you want, but currently the Provincial Auditor, yes, has put forward very alarming statements. All you had to do was read the press reports. The press doesn't like it either. So every single group except the Liberals and the NDP, it seems, doesn't like it.

I'm simply asking that you have another look at what you're doing. It's not a matter of money, because the Provincial Auditor has accurately put forward that the hiring of additional inspectors could be offset by inspection fees. If you're going to have elevators, you've got to pay those fees. We demand the safety of the public.

I disagree with your opening statement when you say, "The safety of the public has not been compromised." The Provincial Auditor's report has challenged you on that statement and I invite you to reassure us that your initial statement was accurate.


The Vice-Chair: I'm sorry, but we've come to the end of your time, Mr Tilson, so I have to move on to Mr Farnan.

Mr Farnan: First of all, members of Parliament are generalists. THey don't have a great deal of background in particular areas. We tend to have some information on a lot of areas. That's why it was very important that Mr Sorbara was here today because Mr Sorbara, as a former minister responsible for this area and with a detailed knowledge of this area, and obviously from a totally non-partisan point of view, was able to give a judgement that indeed we have a system that is commendable. He didn't say there wasn't need for improvement, but we have a system that is commendable. I am impressed with that statement from Mr Sorbara.

I am horrified by the kind of scaremongering Mrs Marland and Mr Tilson have gotten into during this process. The reason for that is that I have friends back there in Cambridge at Fairview Mennonite Home or St Luke's home and, of course, can they ride an elevator? That is a question I ask you in very simple terms. An elevator is a box attached to a cable. Is it just one cable? Is the cord fraying? Should people say: "My God, that cord is just about to snap. I'd better not get into that elevator"? Could you explain a little bit about the basics of an elevator so this committee and the public in general might have some idea of what we're talking about?

Mr Walter: There are a number of different safety standards, and obviously, depending on the elevator, the number of cables will vary. But the standards are such that if an elevator had five cables and four of them broke, the one will be strong enough to hold the car itself. That is simply the cable. That doesn't talk to the devices installed on the elevator that stop it, regardless of what would happen with the cables.

Some of the things you're talking about that Ontario has initiated are retrofits to elevators to stop overspeeding in the up direction and crashing into the ceiling. We put in particular safety equipment on doors, on hoistway doors. We put equipment that would stop cars from moving if the doors were open, those kinds of things. There are any number of pieces of safety equipment.

You talked about the people in these homes in your riding. The Provincial Auditor in the report talked about a number of minor accidents increasing from 384 to 508. There are two comments I want to make there. The first one would be that we've instituted a much better reporting system. Other jurisdictions have almost no reporting system or it's inaccurate and so it's hard to compare.

The other thing I want to point out to all the members -- it was in the information we sent to Mr Tilson and it's unfortunate you didn't get it, sir -- we looked at the total accidents and incidents for passenger elevators alone. Out of the 35,000, there are probably some 20,000 or 21,000 passenger elevators. In 1988-89, there were 134 accidents and incidents; in 1989-90, there were were 104; in 1991, there were 90; and in 1991-92, there were 99. The figures we've looked at for this year would indicate they were probably on a par with last year. So for elevators, that figure has gone down since 1988-89. I think that's important when you're talking, Mr Farnan, about people in your riding feeling safe, that we believe we're doing the job we should be doing.

Mr Farnan: Having said that, there will no doubt be an accident on an elevator tomorrow, next week or several weeks down the road. I don't think we're ever going to come to a situation, and I think this is fair to say, where you can eliminate totally the possibility of accidents. I do believe, though, that we must be doing all in our power to ensure that we achieve the highest level of safety.

It's comforting that you come forward with a report that gives some credence to that, and it's even more comforting for me to hear of a former minister in a Liberal administration reaffirm that at a time when he could be in fact taking pot shots at the government. But in fact he is saying, "Let's look at this rationally."

The last question is this: If you cannot make a decision on a particular elevator that you are not going out to inspect that from the ministry perspective, there are other inspections taking place, are there not?

Mr Walter: Yes, sir.

Mr Farnan: There are other inspections taking place. Is it possible to have a time limit, an upper time frame which says that elevator must be inspected at a minimum of every three years, even if it is not a ministry inspection?

Mr Walter: Well, perhaps I should clarify that with the standards that we require from maintenance. In probably 90% of the elevators in Ontario, the person doing the maintenance on a monthly basis does a monthly inspection. When we have the Index system going fully, obviously we will be able to do that. This one would have to be done every three years, but I would never want to say that there was a three-year limit on every elevator. But there certainly could be a three-year limit on some elevators.

Mr Farnan: Mr Chair, I would pass on to my colleagues.

The Chair: Mrs MacKinnon and then Mr Hayes.

Mrs MacKinnon: To tell you the honest-to-goodness truth, and I'm not trying to be dramatic or anything else, I'm scared of the elevators, not only in this building but that belong to any part of Queen's Park, because I have been involved in a few things that are absolutely scary. As a matter of fact, ironic as it may seem, today at noon my arm was caught because the elevator door down the hall here shut much too quickly. Thank goodness for security. He managed to catch the elevator in time. Be that as it may, perhaps that will be rectified after I'm dead and gone; I don't know.

You say that you identify anyone who -- if I remember correctly, I believe you were speaking about your inspectors or whatever your people are called who work in the field, on a case-by-case situation. I don't understand this "case-by-case." If somebody worked on the elevator that I was caught on today, how are you going to identify it case by case? How are you going to know who it was who worked on that? Do you know whether it was Joe or Harry? How do you know that?

Mr Walter: First of all, you talked about the case-by-case. We know where those situations are, because the elevator companies are required by our standard to report that to us. So if an incident or an accident occurs on an elevator, then the company doing the maintenance is required to advise us of that, and that's the better reporting system we have than in any other jurisdiction.

The other thing we're doing -- you relate back to, how do we know who is doing the work on that? That was a recommendation from a coroner's jury and we actually went back and changed the regulation. Effective April 1 of this year there will be a standard logbook in place for every elevator in the machine room that will require the mechanic to keep a very strict record of what maintenance was done, who did it and on what date.

Mrs MacKinnon: You said "this year." You mean 1993?

Mr Walter: Yes.


Mrs MacKinnon: Up until that point in time, you're really not going to be terribly, terribly sure of who worked on what elevator then.

Mr Walter: Most of the companies have a record of that. If you go to the big companies that are doing most of the work, some of them I won't name in particular here, but one of them that does a large amount of work has it all on a computerized record. Our concern was that although the computerized record was an excellent record, it wasn't onsite, and we want to know what's onsite, so that's why we instituted the logbook. That took a little time because of the consultations we had to do with industry to ensure we had the right thing in place.

Mrs MacKinnon: Could I move on then please to the education requirements, as one who's always interested in education and one who has a community college right in the riding? You say that you want graduates from community college as part of their education requirements. What would anybody going to community college study? What type of courses would they take at a community college in order to be qualified to go on to become a trainee in either your organization or any elevator company, whatever it may be?

Mr Walter: There are a number of technical programs available. We'd be interested in people who perhaps had an education in electronics or with an electrical or mechanical background. Anyone who has that kind of educational level brings an understanding of the kinds of equipment we're using. Therefore the hands-on training program we put in place, depending on the individual, would last maybe 18 months to two and a half years in doing that hands-on training.

Mrs MacKinnon: After they've graduated from a college course?

Mr Walter: After we hire them, we provide that training, yes.

Mrs MacKinnon: But you were saying that you would like to see them be a graduate of some type of a community college course, obviously in electronics or whatever.

Mr Walter: Something with a background that would lead them into our work. The nine we have all have that background and have been teaching our present inspectors some very good ways of doing things.

Mrs MacKinnon: When the issue of education was raised before, you gave the answer I just shudder when I hear, and around here you hear it on a daily basis, it's ongoing: "We're taking a look at it." How long do you take a look at it? I think you were speaking in regard to training, perhaps yourself or getting the colleges to put in courses that would be applicable to inspection of elevators or lifting devices or whatever. How long do you have to look at it?

Mr Walter: I think we were speaking at the time about the training and certification program for elevator mechanics. I think that's what the comment was; I'm not sure if I'm certain. That was a recommendation by a couple of coroners' juries, that we investigate that. That has not been an easy situation to resolve.

We have been in meetings with the tripartite committee for about 12 months. I'm not in a position to give all the details, but there are opposing points of view on that committee from various stakeholders. I believe I have an obligation to resolve those points of view before I give a recommendation to the minister. When you ask ongoing, the next meeting is on January 29, and I would hope that within 60 days after that we would have a final report.

The Chair: Mr Hayes, one question.

Mr Hayes: I know you've already alluded to this question, and that's the issue about the accidents rising from 384 in 1988 to 508 in 1990. I believe what you said was that you have a new or improved reporting system, and I guess it kind of takes me back to industries, for example, where the mother company would be in Michigan. I can remember them coming over and saying, "Well, our accidents are a lot less than what you have," but then of course we found out the same thing with compensation, I guess. They weren't required to report all accidents where in fact we did in the workplace I was in -- well, as many as we could. The ones that were reported were certainly recorded.

But what kind of action would you be taking where a contractor, for example, did not report an accident and you found out about it, whether it be from a worker or someone else? What kind of security do you have to ensure that the proper reporting is in fact being done?

Mr Walter: It's difficult to monitor that. We do get some letters directly from people. In fact, I had one in the last couple of days where a member of the public complained about the elevator. When we checked back, we found out that no one had complained about a particular elevator and the company had not -- obviously, they hadn't even had it reported to them. When we find that out -- and we don't find out that often, I tell you -- we then have very serious discussions with that contractor. But I don't think that we've had many of those, and we would certainly have the ability to prosecute them if we wanted to.

Mr Cordiano: I just have a few brief questions with respect to the whole issue of inspectors once again. Really, my question is more to do with a hypothetical situation, which would be, if you were granted the ability or permission to pay for more inspectors by paying for them through the revenues that could be generated by fees, would you then be able to hire the inspectors that you actually needed over the course of, say, the next year, into the next fiscal year? Because what you've said is, basically, you may not need additional inspectors, but let's assume that you might. You are already training an additional nine inspectors, but let's assume that you will need, additional to that, several more. Going into 1993-94 and 1994-95, we may have additional construction. God willing, the economy is going to turn around and there will be additional pressures down the road and some expansion will take place. Do you feel that would rectify the problem, if you were able to do that, bring inspectors on line?

Mr Walter: To answer your question, it's correct that more inspectors would be offset by inspection fees, and there is a process, among others that we're looking at, that you might follow to make that proposal. But again I would have to be very careful that we had the correct number. We are bringing nine more on, and if you said that I should have 10 more, then I would want to look at where the risk management of Index told me I should have people and where they should be in the province, which is the other concern. That's one of the problems we have.

Mr Cordiano: There are areas where there are real shortages of inspectors, Ottawa being one of those.

Mr Walter: Yes, the staff have to be assigned where they are needed, and we need to look at that as well.

Mr Cordiano: The other thing I wanted to say very quickly is that I suppose, then, what you're telling us and the conclusion we may come to with respect to this is that we need to then assess your performance on a different set of criteria. What I would like to see you do as a ministry at this point, in this division or this branch, is to set out what you think the criteria should be for us to make proper assessments with respect to whether you're fulfilling the requirement for the safety of the public to be met and what those should be, so that when the auditor revisits this question some time in the future, he'll be able to determine that with a clear set of criteria having been prepared by yourselves rather than having it forced upon you from others. Is that a fair enough way to approach that?


Mr Walter: I think that's more than fair. I do it on a divisional basis, and in fact, it's what the three directors and I are doing right now. We are working with our director of the Index program to establish a risk management for every branch in the division. We will have very measurable criteria and we will be able to tell you that the system says we should be there X times and that we have or haven't met that. Yes, sir.

Mr Cordiano: I would also ask that you somehow make that understandable to the auditors in the context of this report that was done by the auditor.

Mr Walter: I think the Provincial Auditor understood that, but you have to remember that they were doing an audit last summer on a system we are changing. I don't want it to be seen as a criticism of the Provincial Auditor.

Mr Cordiano: It wouldn't be a criticism of the Provincial Auditor; it would be a criticism of your ministry with respect to making that clear, because the auditor is going to make his assessment based on what you set out as a set of criteria.

Ms Wolfson: I think what Mr Walter is saying is exactly that, Mr Cordiano, that indeed it's only proper management for us to have criteria and for us to have productivity measures and for us to assess risk and be able to justify that to the public, the public in the eyes of the Provincial Auditor. That is obviously a requirement of the ministry.

The Chair: Mr Callahan, five minutes.

Mr Callahan: A few brief questions: First, is the minister right when she said in Hansard on December 1, 1992, that 90% of elevating devices are checked once a month and inspected by the contractors?

Mr Walter: I think I've already stated that this afternoon.

Mr Callahan: When you talk about 90% of them being checked, who's that by? Who checks them?

Mr Walter: The maintenance part of the requirements for doing maintenance on elevators, part of the regulation is that the person who does the maintenance is not just supposed to go in and do the maintenance, grease the wheels etc; he is to ensure that the safety equipment is working.

Mr Callahan: Okay. The second question I have is that in your estimates -- you may have been asked this; I was out on a matter that came down today in the media studio -- you've got a change from 1991 to 1992. There's a cutback of $272,600 under elevating devices -- I would have thought that would have been increased -- and there seems to be a very extraordinary increase in what is listed under program administration. Why is that?

Mr Walter: Thank you for raising it. It was asked earlier, but I didn't get a chance to answer. It's really two questions. A reduction was shown this year because that was the allocation. However, early in this year, I did some allocation within the division that wouldn't show up and the Provincial Auditor would not have been aware of it. I moved $208,000 from another part of my division into elevating devices. If you want to look at the allocation, in 1988-89 the allocation was $3.2 million. In 1991 it was $4 million. In 1991-92 it was $4.4 million. In 1992-93 it was $4.7 million. With the deputy here, I won't tell you what I want to do for next year, because I want some money.

That was our preliminary allocation, Mr Callahan, and I moved money from within. The reason there is $1.1 million shown in my budget is not because I travel a lot, but within my budget is the whole Index project.

Mr Callahan: Employment equity?

Mr Walter: No. Index is our computer system that we're installing. As the deputy said earlier, over the last four years we've put over $6 million into that. It doesn't show it out -- it's a different way of recording the budget -- but it was attached to my budget in the ADM's office. All that money went into the computer system, the implementation.

Mr Callahan: If I understand you correctly, you're putting your money into this new program as opposed to increasing the budget for elevating device inspectors to inspect. Is that right?

Mr Walter: No. We had to fund nine trainees someplace, and we had to fund a training officer to work with them.

Mr Callahan: What I'm getting at is that in light of all that has been said by the auditor -- again, the safety of the people of this province is the most important thing -- would it not have been better to get yourself caught up before you started investing that kind of money in some other program?

Mr Walter: We're doing both. We have to correct the problem with the risk management by putting in the Index system before we simply throw resources at it. We have to do both. From 1988-89, we've increased from $3.2 million to $4.7 million in the elevating devices branch. Part of that money is going towards the hiring of an electronics engineer. Some of the money has gone towards the hiring of trainees and a very extensive training program; that doesn't come cheaply. At the same time, from outside the division, from ministry resources that we have allocated on a team basis at the senior level, we have allocated money to technology in this ministry. So we did both at the same time.

Mr Callahan: Maybe the Treasurer should give you some more money seeing as how you bring in so much money. You should start earmarking this stuff for the safety of the people of this province instead of taking your money on licence fees and not giving back an equivalent amount to carry out a safety -- I feel great empathy for you people. It's not a criticism of you. You're working under very extreme circumstances, and all this money goes into the great black hole and you don't get a sufficient amount to deal with an issue which I think any Ontarian without dispute would find to be a very significant issue: their safety when they enter an elevator and travel the height of some of the towers we have here.

There should not have been fees at the same rate for disabled people's. I take great exception to that; I think that was wrong. Any taxation should take into consideration the needs of the people who are using those types of vehicles, and I don't think that was the case here. I still haven't gotten a satisfactory answer in terms of the disabled fee being quadrupled. There was no need for that at all. That's a message not for you; that's for Mr Laughren, if he happens to be watching, or the Premier. I find that really objectionable.

The Chair: Thank you. Ten minutes, Mrs Marland.

Mrs Marland: Are we back to 10 minutes? I'll see what I can do with it this time.

I want to concur with Ellen's comments, unfortunately, about the elevators in this building. I routinely travel on the elevator for the disabled in this building because I'm the spokesperson for people with disabilities. I do that for the reason that I've had some very bad experiences on that elevator, where I actually have to claw my way out to get the door open. I have reported it and it still doesn't work properly. But that's not the responsibility of the minister or the deputy.

In fairness, Mr Walter, I want to place on the record that in speaking with the industry, they are very complimentary about the improvements that have been made to your division, the technical standards division. Apparently, in the time you have been there, the industry has seen a lot of improvements. They are indeed very complimentary about the work you're doing in that division and the progress that has been made in it.

Mr Walter: Thank you.

Mr Hayes: However.

Interjection: Hang on.

Mrs Marland: I'm not a member of the industry. I'm just a little person here, elected to represent 98,000 people, and I have the auditor's report in front of me. The auditor's report says on page 45:

"Branch managers estimated that around 10,000 elevators may not meet required safety standards. Furthermore, there have been cases in which elevator manufacturers have notified the ministry of potentially dangerous deficiencies in these devices after decades of operation."

When I read this, I wondered who these branch managers were. I've had it confirmed for me that these are your people, ministry people, so I think you've got to explain to the public. In deference to my colleagues across the room who say that my questions have been alarmist, my questions have been based on the facts that are presented to us in this auditor's report. Correct the auditor's report if this isn't so, but if your own people are saying they've estimated that around 10,000 elevators may not meet required safety standards, that has to be of concern.


In answer to Mr Tilson's questions about the accidents going down, I notice on page 44: "The number of minor accidents had risen from 384 in 1988 to 508 in 1990." "Coroners' juries investigating fatal elevator accidents have recommended that inspection coverage be improved," and "A recent ministry study indicated that the cost of hiring additional inspectors could be more than offset by the inspection fees generated."

So we're not sitting here saying, "Please spend lots more of the taxpayers' money." We're asking you to deal with something that is absolutely revenue-neutral. If you need us to get up in the House and start asking some questions on this to support the need, now is your chance. I know what it's like at the cabinet table sweepstakes, when you're all asking for the same pot of money from the Treasurer. But if something is truly self-funded, why aren't we doing it?

Mr Walter: I think it would be inappropriate for me to say something that perhaps the minister might say on that issue, but let me talk about some of the specific concerns you raised. Let's talk about the 10,000 or about those figures you have raised. One of the branch managers, when asked by the Provincial Auditor to talk about the electronic expertise within the division -- that's the whole section around "Resource Expertise" on page 45 of the report; we acknowledge that the technology has changed considerably, particularly in the area of electronics, and there are considerable pieces of electronic equipment on there. When asked, this branch manager, a senior person whom I trust very much -- and I'm not disputing either his comment nor the Provincial Auditor's comment -- said, "We don't know," because we have not gained enough electronic expertise in the recent past as equipment becomes more complicated.

If he was asked, "What would be the worst-case scenario?" there might be up to 10,000 elevators that we have not checked. But that does not mean that those elevators are unsafe. It might mean they stop, but elevators and the equipment are now designed to fail-safe properly; if there were a problem, that elevator would simply shut down, not end up dropping.

Mrs Marland: It's not really fair to interrupt you, but I'd like to ask you this: Do your records of accidents include cause of death related to an elevator experience? You know how terribly frightening it is: heart attack, hyperventilation and so forth, people with potential for hypertension health risks. The experience of people, any of us, who have been locked in any elevator in excess of half an hour -- I've been in one for two and a half hours, a crowded elevator -- do your reports record related --

Mr Walter: I can only tell you, Mrs Marland, that there has been one case, and that's where there was a very serious accident. I really don't have that kind of information.

Mrs Marland: Your records would only include it if it were related to the mechanical functioning of the elevator.

Mr Walter: Or depending on what was reported to us. I wouldn't have that, though. Do you want me to continue?

Mrs Marland: Yes.

Mr Walter: We were talking about the 10,000 elevators. Those simply have not been checked, and my response earlier was that -- I think you were out -- what that branch manager did say is that all of those electronic components were initially checked by a professional engineer in the industry before they were installed. So what we would be doing with the 10,000 is simply a double-check of what has already been done by a professional engineer who knows the business, who knows the equipment and who knows the standard. I mean, someone could come back and accuse us of overkill, I suppose, because what we want to do is check what the professionals have said is okay, and that's where that figure comes in.

Ms Wolfson: I just want to add one more piece to that if I can, Mrs Marland, and that's the issue of resource allocation. I as the deputy minister appreciate the willingness of the members of the committee to say, "We'll help; we'll raise the issue and we want to ensure that you have sufficient resources." I would not want to leave the impression with this committee that the ministry is saying, "We don't want more resources to do what's important to be done." I think what we are saying is that if there is a need for more resources we will certainly bring forward that concern. Right now, we have nine new inspectors coming on, we have $6.7 million of technology coming on that will give us, in our view, with the best expertise we've got, the ability to assess what's an appropriate allocation of resources, and certainly that's done on an annual basis.

I would not ever want to be in a position of saying I know exactly what the resources should be, depending on what the situation is. For instance, one of the members of the committee said, "If there were burgeoning interests and the economy springs back and we have construction, we will be in a situation where we will have to look again and review what's needed when." I think the issue for us is, do we have the people in the right places in a responsible manner to manage the risks appropriately according to what the system is, not just from inspection but from what the engineers and the contractors and those who are managing or running elevators?

Mrs Marland: What about the certification of mechanics to a basic standard?

Ms Wolfson: I'd have to defer to Mr Walter.

Mr Walter: That's the training and certification program we're doing right now that we're working --

Mrs Marland: Is it mandatory now?

Mr Walter: No, it's not in place at this point. I have to repeat what I said earlier. We have been working for the last 12 months or probably a little more on a tripartite committee with the ministries of Skills Development and Labour and --

Mrs Marland: Sorry; I didn't understand earlier.

Mr Walter: I'm sorry. Okay, that's the --

Mrs Marland: I heard you refer to that committee and we weren't sure what the committee was.

Mr Walter: I'm sorry. That's the tripartite committee of industry, government and labour. That's the training and certification program we're talking about, and we hope to have the initial work done soon.

Mrs Marland: What is "soon"?

Mr Walter: Well, the next meeting is at the end of this month. It's hard for me to say, because I'm one person on an equal tripartite committee. I would hope we would be able to come back in the near future, in two months; I don't know. I don't think I can be held to that because I'm not the person who's carrying it all.

Mrs Marland: I'm not going to hold you to it but it would be helpful if there was certification of mechanics for everything.

Mr Walter: We agree.

The Chair: Thank you. Mr Fletcher, 10 minutes.

Mr Fletcher: It's nice to hear that Mrs Marland has heard from the industry and that she's seen such improvements over the last 15 months since you've been there. I guess that is a credit to you and the staff and everyone who's working in the ministry and also a credit to the present minister, who saw there was a need and it was time to go after that and gave you the leeway to do it. I'm glad that's happening.

When I look at the system, what I see is a system that was implemented way back when, that really just started off as a concern and then got into some statutes. As it progressed and evolved, certain things changed within the elevating industry that had to be addressed, and you've moved in that direction. During the 1980s with all the building and all the new elevators coming on line, I can understand the boom and how you can be shortchanged and that there is a backlog, that you're working on that backlog and that you're bringing in the technology to meet the needs of today. In other words, the elevating inspection industry has been expanding and it's been getting better as the years go on. Is that a correct assumption?

Mr Walter: I think we're developing more expertise and we're getting better at setting standards and we're getting better at having the industry comply with those standards, yes.


Mr Fletcher: As far as the input of the industry, it's happy with what is going on so far. Is that a correct assumption?

Mr Walter: I think yes, they're very pleased at the level of cooperation. For the last 15 months -- and I don't want to take all the credit myself, because it was obviously a lot of other people -- we have been working with the industry very closely and in fact it disbanded its all-industry committee and has simply continued to sit as part of our elevating devices advisory committee.

I feel it's important for me to meet with them. I can't get into some of the technical issues -- they're too detailed -- but I do meet with them every time they meet and I think the industry is very pleased at how we have worked with it to establish the best standards. I think that was an indication when they came to us and asked if we would take part in a harmonization project to level the playing field for this whole continent.

Mr Fletcher: When there has been an accident, a fatality, be it any reason, the ministry and your department have responded quickly, I believe. As far as the joyriding issue was concerned, I know that you moved fast on that issue. I think your response has always been one that wherever there had to be a quick decision, it's moved quickly to make sure that these accidents don't happen again. Is that a correct assumption?

Mr Walter: Yes, it is. We were able to respond quickly. Even before my time there was such a good relationship developed with the industry that even when we prosecute some of these companies and they have been fined for doing things they shouldn't have done, they still come to the table and work with us very closely.

Mr Fletcher: One other point is that you're not where you wish to be yet as far as safety and the inspection of elevating devices. I know that some people have been asking me how long or when. As far as the long-term goals of meeting the objectives of the ministry on elevating devices, are we looking at, in another 10, 15, 20 years, an auditor's report coming in saying, "You're messing up again"? Can we hit perfection or can we get close to where we want to be so that the auditor's reports are finally saying that we've moved from many years ago here and we finally have come to where it's acceptable?

Mr Sorbara: The first step would be an election.

Mr Fletcher: You did good work when you were there, Greg. You won't be there again.

Mr Hayes: You did okay, but we did better.

Mr Walter: I think that all of the things we are doing will put us in a very good position in the very near future, and whether you want to talk 12 months or 18 months or 24 months, it's certainly not 10 or 15 years.

The Chair: Anybody else from the government side? Okay, the auditor has a few short questions.

Mr Erik Peters: I think they're more in terms of comments. I really appreciate the answers that we have heard. I think I'm still concerned about the sentence that you said, "We do not agree that inspection efforts were inadequate to ensure compliance with safety standards." I think we both would agree that at the time when we conducted the audit you were at a fairly rudimentary stage of risk assessment. Our comments about the adequacy and the risk that was being taken were really relating to the state of affairs at that time.

The second part was that I would really appreciate if, on the performance criteria that you committed to when you were asked by Mr Cordiano, we could be involved in some way. We'd be happy to be involved, because if indeed some misunderstanding has arisen in any way, shape or form because of the way criteria were determined and developed -- and we reached our conclusion based on the criteria that we developed with essentially the director level at your branch -- and if there is involvement by you in this to a further extent and if there's anything that we can do to help this, we would be glad to do so.

Our criteria, in the absence of everything else -- and these were very clearly brought out by the members of the committee and they are clearly brought out in our report -- were the items in section 44. You, Mr Walter, used the term "where the rubber hits the road," and that's where we were trying to aim at: where does the rubber hit the road, how many violations do we find, how many minor accidents are occurring and all of these things. We were really results-oriented in this, and that was our principal criterion.

In substance, we came to the conclusions we came to, basically (a) because we felt that the risk assessment methodology that was used was not adequate at the time, and (b) we were trying to use criteria that would be acceptable both to the ministry and to ourselves in terms of the results that were being achieved through the inspection.

In this regard, I'm very pleased on this. You are now of contrary mind, that in a way you do agree that in this regard the inspection effort was inadequate and is now being made adequate by you, and I commend you for that, that the Index system should go in and that you now have a risk assessment handle.

The Chair: I have one last item I wish to raise. I want to clarify. I have yet to be able to understand the comments that were made earlier on today and I'd like to clarify them. I believe the deputy said that there had been no accidents or loss of life due to mechanical failure. I asked for a definition of a mechanical failure and I don't believe I understood.

Mr Walter: I'd like to explain more than I was able to explain, in that when we talk about mechanical failure, we mean a failure of the system. I won't speak about the most recent accident, because that's under investigation. If you look back at the ones before that, in fact I think one of the coroner's reports actually talked about mechanical failure. It was a mechanic working on the elevator who bypassed the safety equipment of the elevator. He used what is termed in the industry "jumper cables." So when we talk about mechanical failure, we mean the safety equipment failed, and we have not had that problem. The fatalities have occurred because -- one was a young man joyriding on top of an elevator and the other two were a direct result of the mechanic doing something he should not have done.

The Chair: I have before me, and I've been looking at it most of the day, the verdict of the coroner's jury in the unfortunate death of Percy Robert Shale, which took place at the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa. Is that the one you're referring to where the --

Mr Walter: Yes. I have a copy of it myself.

The Chair: The coroner's report, as agreed to by the jury, states as follows -- and this is a description of how the accident took place; it's quite gruesome:

"Mr Shale was entering the elevator on the fifth floor when the doors closed, trapping him partway on to the elevator. The elevator moved down, striking him on the head, causing massive injuries and propelling him on top of the car. The electric eye was faulty and the door safety edges failed to cause the door to retract. The elevator's basic safety devices failed to prevent the car from moving with the door."

I'm not a technician or an engineer, but I would conclude, after having read the coroner's report, endorsed by the coroner's jury and signed by all members of the jury, that what I've just read into the record to the members is in fact a mechanical failure.

Mr Walter: I don't know whether you have it in yours, but I certainly have it in my copy where it goes on to say, "The most likely cause was human error in the form of miswiring or a jumper cable having been inadvertently left in the safety circuit."

The Chair: It says "the most likely cause." It doesn't say "the cause."

Mr Walter: That was still the recommendation of the jury. What we're saying is that the mechanic used a jumper cable to bypass the safety equipment. We prosecuted both the mechanic and the company. The mechanic was fined $5,000 personally, and the company was fined $30,000. The jury came to the conclusion that the cause was human error in the form of miswiring or a jumper cable.

Ms Wolfson: Mr Mancini, if I might add, the Coroners Act requires a jury to find the cause of death to its ability. That's their task, and this was the most likely cause that they could come to.

The Chair: Okay, that's fine. Any other further questions by any members?

Mr Peters: May I?

The Chair: Go ahead.

Mr Peters: Very quickly, on the follow-up on this company particularly, I guess as professionals, and you as professionals, we most likely learn from this. This was one incident where I think they also talked about the mechanic being unsupervised. One of the points that I wanted to maybe raise at the end of this is that to the public, this is a failure of a mechanical device, as to whether the cause was a jumper cable or whatever. But if indeed the mechanic of this company is unsupervised -- and during the hearings there was some challenging of the disciplinary route that is being followed -- can you at least give some comfort to the members who raised questions about this as to what the mechanism now is that you follow in the company? I know the finding is fine, but what do you do as a ministry in preventing unsupervised mechanics working on it? Because there are a number of accidents -- there are installation accidents and others -- all of this based on unsupervised mechanics doing the work. Maybe you can help the members in this regard as to what further action you may take with a contractor.

Mr Walter: Thank you very much, because what the branch did was issue a director's ruling which specified very specific supervision standards. They actually put in a description of what "onsite supervision" meant and related it back to the years of experience and training of the elevator mechanic. The director did that.

Further to that, through the all-industry committee and through work with staff of the branch, the industry has developed what it would call a passport, which is a record of experience for every elevator mechanic. We are in the process of giving our support to that passport. So we took action, the director took action with a director's ruling, and the industry has responded by making it, I think, even better.

The Chair: The public accounts committee wishes to thank the officials from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations for joining us today and answering our questions in regard to the auditor's report on the elevating devices branch. We appreciate your being here with us and being so courteous and so thoughtful in your responses.

The committee is adjourning and will now be going into closed session. We will be meeting again next week in this committee room Monday afternoon at 2 o'clock. The open session of the public accounts committee is now closed.

The committee continued in closed session at 1604.