POLITICS

Opposition critics welcome criminal probe in mall collapse

07/04/2012 11:53 EDT | Updated 09/03/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Ontario's opposition parties say they hope a public inquiry into the deadly mall collapse in Elliot Lake will uncover whether enough attention was paid to the condition of the building.

New Democrat Gilles Bisson says there clearly were structural issues with the mall before the roof crashed, resulting in the death of two women.

He says residents in the community were ringing the alarm bells about the condition of the mall for years.

Progressive Conservative Christine Elliott says she also has questions about what happened during the search-and-recovery efforts.

She questions why the minister of community safety claimed no mistakes were made before Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the public inquiry late Friday.

Residents have complained that the mall was in shabby condition before the cave-in and have questioned the speed at which rescuers tried to reach those trapped in the rubble.

Ontario Provincial Police spokesman Sgt. Pierre Chamberland wouldn't comment on a report that the investigation stems from information about the building's record of unaddressed maintenance problems.

The Ministry of Labour paid six visits to the mall over the last three years, the latest one being in January when it received a complaint about a leak in the rooftop parking garage.

The inspector went to the site and found it covered in snow, making it difficult to determine the origin of any leaks, a spokesman for Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey has said. The inspector found no health and safety violations and no orders were issued.

The ministry is also conducting its own probe, but has said its probe will not look into the cause of the collapse. The coroner is also investigating.

The province has released several of its inspection reports of the mall. The City of Elliot Lake has not.

A lawyer representing the mall's owner has said that the Algo Centre Mall was inspected on a regular basis.

Antoine-Rene Fabris said the company had spent more than $1 million in renovations.

Questions were raised last week about whether there could have been better communication between the province and the municipality, which was responsible for enforcing Ontario's building code.

McGuinty announced the public inquiry into the mall collapse last week following public outcry about why search-and-rescue efforts were suspended two days after the accident when the building was deemed unsafe. They were restarted hours later after a conference call with the premier.