The public inquiry into the 2012 collapse of the mall in Elliot Lake is the story of the perfect storm of imperfect design, maintenance and repair. A combination of factors from original design to shoddy workmanship and frugally avoiding routine upkeep lead to the building’s collapse, and ultimately the death of two women. The Algo Centre Mall collapsed in a relatively small northern Ontario community that receives relatively little national attention. So why are we all paying attention now?
Public inquiries are open and transparent because they are tools to ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. In Elliot Lake, a collection of mistakes lead to a disaster – mistakes, and a disaster, that could have occurred in any community, large or small, in Ontario. That’s why we should pay attention to the inquiry in Elliot Lake. So many buildings rise, and are repaired and maintained, in all of our communities. We shop, learn and play in those buildings – take advantage of them, until, of course, they kill us.
Missing bolts, twisted columns and rust are often small symptoms of greater problems.
They are worth paying attention to. The overarching lesson is that if you ignore them, the devil really is in the details.