Sabrina Maddeaux: Liberal plan won’t solve Ontario’s ridiculous elevator crisis

Anyone who lives in an apartment building in Ontario knows that feeling. You leave your unit to be confronted with a dreaded piece of paper stuck to an elevator door: “Out of Order”

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In this NP Comment video, Sabrina Maddeaux explains why elevators are taking so long to get serviced in the province of Ontario, and how neither political party has a viable plan to fix the problem. Watch the full video or read the transcript below.

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Anyone who lives in an apartment building in Ontario knows that feeling. You leave your unit and venture down the hallway, only to find yourself faced with a dreadful piece of paper taped to an elevator door: “Out of Order.”

If you’re lucky, your building has another working elevator, and you’re lining up behind a dozen other residents for the privilege of leaving your concrete tower. This can take 10 minutes or 45 minutes, probably the latter if you are late for a meeting.

If you are less lucky, all elevators are out of service and you can use the stairs. This is when people who live on higher floors really pay for their view.

Worst case scenario, you have mobility issues or other medical issues and are now stuck in your unit until someone tells you otherwise.

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These are all regular occurrences in Ontario, where what should be standard elevator repairs turned into an elevator crisis. The province’s firefighters respond to nearly 5,000 calls each year from people stuck in elevators. Dozens of people are blocked every day. A single malfunctioning elevator can effectively hold thousands of residents hostage in their homes.

Elevators literally have two functions: up and down. But, here, they often do neither. And when they do break, they are rarely repaired in a timely manner. Repairs regularly take days and can even take weeks or even months, not because of their complexity, but because of the long wait times for service and parts.

The new Liberal platform denounces the problem and recognizes its serious impact on the quality of life and safety of residents. Stephen Del Duca promises to get the elevators fixed faster, though he’s pretty vague on how. It says it will “strengthen provincial oversight of elevator access and maintenance,” but provides no further details.

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This probably won’t solve the problem. In most cases, building managers are eager to get elevators fixed. The problem is that they can’t because of the elevator monopoly.

Like many industries in Canada, the elevator industry is controlled by a small handful of companies. Four, to be exact. These multinationals are in a race to the bottom for market share by charging low rates and overcharging elevator technicians. The result was less preventative maintenance, longer response times, and compromised reliability and safety standards. Without competition, they have little incentive to change.

In 2007, the European Union fined these same companies a record US$1.3 billion for acting as a cartel and fixing prices.

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Any Ontario politician who is serious about solving the elevator crisis must investigate and, if necessary, tackle this oligopoly. This might involve regulating them, but would more ideally incentivize genuine competition.

The Liberals aren’t the only ones missing the mark on elevators — Premier Doug Ford failed to implement the Consumer Credit Report Access and Elevator Availability Act, which received the sanction in the last days of Kathleen Wynne’s government. Elevator companies would have had to complete the repairs in one week in long-term care facilities and in two weeks in other residential buildings. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it would have been a start and placed the responsibility for timely repairs on the majority interests.

A province full of people constantly stuck in elevators or stuck in their high rises is not functioning properly. It’s time for an Ontario leader to finally fix the elevator crisis by standing up to the elevator oligopoly.

Editor’s Note: Contrary to what is stated in the video, the name of the legislation passed by the previous Liberal government is the Access to Consumer Credit Reports and Elevator Availability Act, 2018.



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