Testimony at the inquiry looking into the fatal roof collapse at the mall in Elliot Lake has raised questions about whether some at city hall put financial concerns ahead of safety.

City councillor Al Collett testified Thursday he told the city building department there were signs the building was deteriorating, just months before the fatal roof collapse.

Collett said a restaurant owner in the mall alerted him to something disturbing.

"He showed me a piece of concrete that had fallen through his ceiling tile and into his kitchen," Collett said.


The Elliot Lake Inquiry saw pictures of a tenant at the Algo Centre Mall who found concrete that had fallen through the ceiling at his business — months before the building's roof partially collapsed, killing two women. (Elliot Lake Inquiry)

Collett testified he took the concern to the chief building official in Elliot Lake, Bruce Ewald, and asked him what the city was going to do about it.

"His response to me was, ‘it's difficult, it would look very bad for the city to shut the mall down.’ My response to that, and I regret saying it now was, what are we waiting for? Somebody to die?"

Chief building official to testify

The mall remained open until June 2012, when a corroded steel beam in the roof gave way and concrete crashed down onto the floors below.

Previous evidence at the inquiry showed the city made some efforts to force permanent fixes at the Algo Centre, but there was little follow up.

The inquiry has also heard about close ties between the mall and city hall.

The Algo Centre was privately owned at the time of the roof collapse. But before that, it was owned by an economic development entity connected to the city that was created to transform the former mining town into a retirement mecca.

Chief building officials for cities are bound by municipal law to force commercial owners to fix or demolish buildings that are not watertight or structurally sound.

Chief building official, Bruce Ewald is expected to start his testimony at the inquiry on Friday.

The inquiry was established in July 2012 by the Ontario government to report on events surrounding the mall roof's collapse, and the deaths of Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, as well as the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.

Hearings began March 4 and are expected to conclude with testimony from former premier Dalton McGuinty on Sept. 12.

Elliot Lake inquiry schedule of testimony:

Witness Dates (subject to change)
Fred Bauthus (second period), Former Chief Administrative Officer, City of Elliot Lake * Will only speak to the second period he acted as CAO, namely September 4, 2007 to June 8, 2010  May 16 and 21 (and 22 if necessary), 2013
Henrieth Laroue (McLeery), Former Mall Manager, Eastwood Mall May 22 (and 23 if necessary), 2013 ** We will start Ms. Laroue's testimony as soon as the testimony of Mr. Bauthus is completed. 
Al Collett, Councillor, City of Elliot Lake May 23, 2013 ** We will start Mr. Collett's testimony on May 22 if we are done with Ms. Laroue before the end of the day on May 22. 
Bruce Ewald, Chief Building Official, City of Elliot Lake May 24, 2013
Judy McCulloch, Manager, Customer Service, Scotiabank May 27, 2013
Don Denley, Former City of Elliot Lake Councillor May 27, 2013
Sonia Saari, Structural Engineer, Corselab May 28, 2013
Tom Turner, Former Mall Manager, Eastwood Mall May 28, 2013
Panel: Hassan Saffarini, P. Eng - NORR Chris Hughes, Architect - NORR Pouria Ghods, P. Eng - Giatec Scientific Aaron Dinovitzer, P. Eng - BMT Fleet Technology May 29 and 30, 2013
Rhonda Lendt (Bear), Former Mall Manager, Eastwood Mall June 4, 2013
Philip Sarvinis, Engineer, Read Jones Christofferson, retained by Eastwood Mall June 5, 2013
Ralph Regan, Former Inspector, Ministry of Labour June 5, 2013
Tracy Patrick, Former Assistant to Robert Wood and Gregory Saunders, M.R. Wright June 6, 2013
Gregory Saunders, Engineer, M.R. Wright June 6, 2013
Robert Woods, M.R. Wright June 7 and 10, 2013
Antoine-René Fabris, Lawyer, retained by Eastwood Mall June 11, 2013 ** We will start Mr. Fabris' testimony on June 10 if we are done with Mr. Wood before the end of the day on June 10. 
Rob DeBortoli, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Elliot Lake June 12, 2013
Lesley Sprague, City Clerk June 13, 2013
Ed Hudson, Former Inspector, Ministry of Labour June 13, 2013
Majid Milani-Nia or Jaime M. Hass, Pinchin June 14, 2013
Ron McCowan, McCowan and Associates, considered purchase of Mall June 14, 2013
Rick Hamilton, Mayor, City of Elliot Lake July 8, 2013
Roger Jeffries, Engineer, Ministry of Labour July 9, 2013
Robert Racko, Developer July 10, 2013
Dale Craig, Expert, Engineer, J.L. Richards July 10, 2013
Levon Nazarian, Leasing manager and real estate advisor, Eastwood Mall Starting July 11 and continuing for the rest of the week of July 8 (and week of July 15 if necessary), 2013
Robert Nazarian, Owner, Eastwood Mall Week of July 15, 2013