POLITICS

McGuinty wants to speed up review looking at sprinklers in seniors' homes

05/28/2012 11:25 EDT | Updated 07/28/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Premier Dalton McGuinty says he wants to speed up a review of fire safety improvements in seniors' homes following the death of an elderly couple.

The review is expected to take a year, but McGuinty said Monday that he's not sure it should take that long.

"I have a concern about the length of time devoted to this consultation process," McGuinty said in the legislature.

"I'm going to be speaking to the minister to see what we can do to accelerate that ... The issue is not whether but when we move ahead and, in fact, what kind of retirement homes we put those sprinklers in."

Pressure is mounting on the Liberals to take action after the couple, who were in their 80s, died Friday after a fire broke out at a retirement home in Hawkesbury, Ont. The facility didn't have sprinklers.

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs renewed its call for urgent action in the wake of the fatal fire, saying 48 seniors have died since 1980 under similar circumstances.

There's no need for consultations on whether sprinklers should be installed when four inquests into other blazes at seniors' homes have recommended that sprinklers be installed in facilities for vulnerable people, the group argues.

NDP critic Paul Miller, who has introduced a second private member's bill that would require all seniors' homes to have sprinklers, agrees.

"There's been four inquests, the firefighters are on board, the coroner's on board ... everyone's on board, saying this should go now, not a year from now," Miller said.

"How many more people have to die before this premier stands up and does something?"

The Liberals should support his bill on sprinklers, he said. Private member's bills rarely become law without the support of the government.

"For two years now, I've been calling on this government to pass my bill to require sprinklers in retirement homes," Miller said in the legislature.

"Why won't this government listen to the experts, act now to save lives and require automatic sprinklers in all retirement homes?"

Any nursing or retirement home built after 1997 must have sprinklers, but those built before that year aren't required to install them. There are about 4,000 such homes in Ontario, according to the association.

Friday's fire at the Place Mont-Roc home, about 100 kilometres east of Ottawa, forced nearly 90 residents to evacuate.

The cause of the blaze, which broke out on the third floor of the facility, is unknown and the Ontario Fire Marshal has been called in.

That day, a coroner's inquest into a fatal 2009 fire at an Orillia retirement home — which didn't have sprinklers either — released its recommendations.

The report called for retroactive installation of sprinklers in facilities for vulnerable people, such as retirement homes.

The June 2009 blaze at Orillia's Muskoka Heights Retirement Residence killed four people and left six elderly residents critically injured — a toll fire officials called needless.