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Elliot Lake Mall collapse report will 'absolutely' impact election

Some Elliot Lake residents say the final report from inquiry into the Algo Centre Mall's deadly roof collapse will 'absolutely' have an impact on decisions voters make during the municipal election later this month.

The public inquiry report due Oct. 15, voters go to municipal polls Oct. 27

Four people are running for mayor, including incumbent Rick Hamilton, and 24 people are seeking the six council seats in Elliot Lake. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)
The final report on the Elliot Lake mall collapse will be released right in the middle of the municipal election campaign. CBC reporter Megan Thomas joined us in studio to talk about how the 2012 tragedy is affecting the campaign. 8:33

Some Elliot Lake residents say the final report from inquiry into the Algo Centre Mall's deadly roof collapse will 'absolutely' have an impact on decisions voters make during the municipal election later this month.

The report is due to be released on Wednesday of next week.

The mall collapse, which killed two and injured dozens of others "absolutely ... devastated this town," said resident Leslie Ossichuck, who moved a few years ago from Fort Erie to the northern Ontario town to retire.
Leslie Ossichuck moved to Elliot Lake a few years ago from Fort Erie to retire. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

"Whatever fingers they point, [and to] whoever, it will probably determine who [people] are going to vote for."

The inquiry report will not assign blame. However, inquiry commissioner Justice Paul Belanger is expected to report back on what led to mall roof to cave in.

Lucie Aylwin, 37, and Doloris Perizzolo, 70, were killed in June of 2012 when a section of the roof-top parking deck gave way and fell into the mall's food court. Months of public inquiry hearings were held in Elliot Lake to document the events that led to the collapse.

Those hearings also probed deeply into how city officials and municipal politicians handled the forever-leaking roof at the mall.

The commissioner's mandate also included reviewing the procedures of provincial and municipal governments before the mall collapsed, and during the rescue effort that followed. Recommendations are expected to be made on how to prevent such a tragedy in the future.

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. (CBC)

'I do recall'

During months of hearings last year, the inquiry heard Elliot Lake city hall was closely involved with the mall.

Evidence was presented that showed it was widely known that the mall had leaked nearly since it was built in the late-1970s. Concerns were raised about a lack of building permits for repairs on the mall roof. There were property standards violations, including the leaky roof-top parking deck, that were not fully enforced.

During the inquiry, there was also frustration that some officials did not recall details about the mall when they were questioned. Some people in Elliot Lake started wearing T-Shirts that said "We do recall" or "I recall" to the inquiry hearings.

One candidate running for council is now using an "I Do Recall" slogan on a campaign sign.

Mayor's race

Elliot Lake Mayor Rick Hamilton is seeking a third term in office. Hamilton was called as a witness at the inquiry.
Elliot Lake Mayor Rick Hamilton is seeking a third term. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

Over several days of testimony, Hamilton was questioned about the relationship between the city and mall, including why the public library was kept in the mall, despite books being destroyed by water and repeated health complaints.

"I am looking forward to the report. I'm looking forward to the results," Hamilton said. "I'm looking forward to making sure that those recommendations are fully implemented."

Two current city councillors are challenging Hamilton in the mayor's race. One of them, Al Collett, was also called as a witness during the inquiry.
Current city councillor Al Collett is running for mayor of Elliot Lake. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

"There's going to be some people, obviously, who will be unhappy with the report. There will be implications made," he said.

Collett, who is an electrician, worked on the Algo Centre Mall over the years. During the inquiry, he explained how he took a chunk of concrete that fell from the ceiling into a restaurant in the mall to the city's chief building official.

"So I think I have done my due diligence. Whether I did enough or not, I can't answer that."

City councillor Tom Farquhar is also challenging Hamilton for the mayor's job.
Current city councillor Tom Farquhar is running for mayor of Elliot Lake. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

"I wasn't involved in the inquiry, I wasn't on council when the decisions were made to buy, sell, do whatever [with the mall]," he said.

Farquhar said voters should also consider what city council has done to help Elliot Lake recover economically from the loss of the mall.

"Unfortunately, even though we have tried to get the message out right from the time of the collapse of the mall, this council has been extremely busy."
Political newcomer Dan Marchisella is running for mayor of Elliot Lake. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

There is also a political newcomer running for mayor in Elliot Lake. Dan Marchisella said he decided to run because he feels the community needs new leadership.

"A lot of people in Elliot Lake don't feel that they have been represented properly," he said. "This is why I have decided to step up and try to make a difference."

Elliot Lake 'created change'

There are 24 other candidates seeking one of the six council seats in Elliot Lake. No matter who wins, there will be several new faces at the council table. Only three current councillors are running for re-election.

Some in Elliot Lake say fresh faces at city hall could help the city move past the events of the past few years.

Linda Aelick of Elliot Lake. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

Linda Aelick has lived in Elliot Lake for much of her life. She works at a nail salon now, but used to work in the uranium mines around which the city was built.

"I really hope we see a lot of change, I really do. Because we really need that change to become a more positive community," she said.

"Elliot Lake has always been a community that stood on its own morals. Elliot Lake created change in the mining industry. Elliot Lake created change in the safety and health. Elliot Lake created change in so many things."

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated only two current councillors are running for re-election.
    Oct 14, 2014 11:59 AM ET

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