Elliot Lake Inquiry hears testimony from premier's office

The public inquiry in Elliot Lake has heard more about what was happening politically in the days after last summer's mall roof collapse.
Rescue workers stand in a line and remove their hard hats as firefighters carry a second body out of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on June 27, 2012. The public inquiry in Elliot Lake has combed through records of what was happening in the Premier's office during the rescue at the collapsed Algo Centre Mall. Email correspondence showed pressure mounted when the rescue inside the unstable building was called off, about 48 hours into the search. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The public inquiry in Elliot Lake has heard more about what was happening politically in the days after last summer's mall roof collapse.

It was then-Premier Dalton McGuinty who urged emergency workers to find another way to reach the victims in the mall.

Hours earlier, the commander of those emergency workers had called off the search because the unstable building was deemed too dangerous.

With the news that the rescue in Elliot Lake was over — about 48 hours after the mall roof fell — the Premier's office prepared a draft statement.

Lawyer Peter Doody read it into the record at the inquiry.

“This evening, Premier Dalton McGuinty released the following statement, ‘Like all Ontarians, I was saddened to learn that efforts in Elliot Lake have moved from rescue to recovery’.”

But that statement was never approved for release.

John O'Leary, a former manager of legislative issues for the Office of the Premier, told the inquiry the idea of stopping the rescue wasn't sitting well with the Premier's staff.

“At the same time the people of Elliot Lake were having a reaction about is there anything else that could be done, we, at the same time, were having a really similar reaction ourselves,” he said.

A conference call was arranged so McGuinty could speak with the commander of the search and rescue team.

The inquiry has heard the rescue then continued and demolition equipment was brought in to take down a section of the damaged mall.

These measures allowed rescue workers to finally reach both victims, but neither survived.

McGuinty will be the final witness at the inquiry, next month.

The public inquiry was established in July 2012 by the Ontario government and has been underway in Elliot Lake since March.

It was created to report on events surrounding the mall roof's collapse on June 23, 2012, the deaths of Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo, the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.

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