Opposition sees holes in oil furnace report

The territory's two opposition parties are echoing each other in the wake of a report recommending changes to how the government regulates oil furnaces.

The territory’s two opposition parties are echoing each other in the wake of a report recommending changes to how the government regulates oil furnaces.

It’s a good report, said both Liz Hanson, leader of the NDP and Sandy Silver, interim leader of the Liberals.

But it’s something we’ve heard before.

“This report confirms what the Yukon government has known for quite a number of years,” said Hanson. “That the government has really done a poor job of regulating the installation and maintenance of oil-fired appliances.”

Silver and Hanson both refer to several reports commissioned by the Yukon Housing Corporation, dating as far back as 2007, which called for better training and regulation of the oil-fired industry in the territory.

This latest report, prepared by the Yukon Housing Corporation with a working group of bureaucrats and industry representatives, calls for public awareness, better training and legislation specifically for oil-fired appliances.

While supportive of the main thrust of the report, Hanson says that the priorities are reversed.

“Regulations have to be the first priority and from there you build education and public awareness and training,” said Hanson. “Otherwise, what is your public awareness and training going to be about? … The government should take the lead.”

Both opposition leaders also criticize the call for full legislation on the issue.

“It may be possible to make improvements by regulations,” said Silver. “We know that new legislation takes a long time to produce and the issue of oil-fired appliances is already regulated under the Building Standards Act, so wouldn’t it be more expeditious to create new regulations under this legislation, as opposed to starting down that long path of a new act?

“They were told years ago what had to be done, and it was unfortunate that we had to wait for an extenuating circumstance causing death to actually move forward on this. I think we owe it to Yukoners to move as expeditiously forward as we possibly can.”

But Hanson believes the government doesn’t see this issue as urgent.

“They’ve been loath to tackle the hard issues through legislation or regulation and simply want these reports, and then that’s supposed to suffice – that’s supposed to make us as citizens feel good that they’re doing something,” she said. “But talking around in circles without taking action that will guarantee the safety of something like an installation of an oil-fired furnace in your home – you can’t talk around that.”

There are glaring holes in the report’s recommendations, said Hanson. There needs to be assurance that dedicated inspectors are enforcing the rules, she said.

In January, the Rusk family and Donald McNamee succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning in their home. The fire marshal’s report of that tragedy showed that inspectors and service people missed serious building code infractions with the furnace and chimney.

And the territory should also require carbon monoxide detectors in all homes across the territory, said Hanson.

Both of these points were mentioned in public comments gathered by the working group, which were included in the report as attachments.

Silver hopes these comments will be regarded as thoroughly as the rest of the report when the government eventually sits down to do something about it, he said.

Both Elaine Taylor, minister of community services, and Scott Kent, minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, have said Yukoners can expect legislation by the fall of 2013, depending on the outcome of public consultation on the report, which is scheduled to take place later this month.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com

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