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Group wants provincial engineer position

The provincial government is being asked to appoint a provincial engineer, similar to Ontario's chief medical officer of health.
Professional Engineers Ontario is launching its own investigation of the roof collapse of an Elliot Lake mall.

The provincial government is being asked to appoint a provincial engineer, similar to Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

The idea has been proposed by Denis Dixon, president of Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), in the wake of the Elliot Lake mall collapse this summer.

In a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty in July, Dixon wrote the provincial engineer could have “overall authority for engineering works in the province, . . . provide specific direction in the event of situations like Elliot Lake, and . . . ascertain whether such situations are indicative of systematic problems.”

Professional engineers are required to design and supervise most building and infrastructure projects. Once completed, however, responsibility is transferred to the owner, along with documentation to operate and repair the facility.

“In some cases, you get extremely competent people who would be looking after the building and assessing everything regularly,” he said.

“But there is another class of owner who doesn't care going forward and that has always been my concern. I have always said an engineer should be handing over the end of a project to another competent person and not necessarily an owner.

“If you watch your building and pay attention to it, a building talks to you and tells you what is going wrong with it.”

Dixon said design is five per cent and construction is 95 per cent so there is more chance of a problem happening because of a construction error.

“Construction errors could be magnified because you have an owner involved who might want to save a dollar and the contractor could be hand in hand saying he would save save him a dollar and at the same time make himself $2. Sometimes the engineers are not invited to those discussions so the supervision on projects is a problem sometimes,” he said.

Dixon recently met with McGuinty's staff to discuss the provincial engineer position and all parties have supported the proposal.

“Now with the possibility of a provincial election coming up in the near future, we will be pushing it even more so all three parties have this idea in their platform,” he said.

On June 23, part of the Algo Centre's roof-top garage collapsed down two storeys, killing Lucie Aylwin, 37, and Dolores Perizzolo, 74, and injuring 20 others.

The mall housed a hotel and about 30 businesses and was viewed as a vital meeting place for town residents.

A public inquiry will be held into the mall collapse and lawsuits have been filed by the families of the deceased women.

PEO is also launching its own investigations related to the mall collapse.

“It is imperative that we determine if work by PEO licence holders was performed competently and in compliance with the regulations under the Professional Engineers Act, as well as other applicable statutes, regulations, standards, codes, bylaws and rules,” Dixon said.