Trudeau says stronger infrastructure needed after surveying Fiona damage


Justin Trudeau traveled Tuesday to PEI’s north coast, where he vowed to find ways to build more resilient infrastructure after surveying extensive damage from Post-Tropical Storm Fiona.

The prime minister was at Stanley Bridge, where a storm surge and gale-force winds toppled buildings and blew fishing boats ashore early Saturday.

“There are always lessons to be learned,” Trudeau said. “Unfortunately, the reality with climate change is that there will be more extreme weather events. We’re going to have to think about how to make sure we’re ready for whatever comes next.”

Trudeau was also expected to address two Cape Breton communities later Tuesday: Glace Bay and Sydney.

On Saturday morning, Fiona left a trail of destruction across a wide swath of Atlantic Canada, stretching from eastern mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island and southwestern Newfoundland.

Power was knocked out, scores of homes were swept away, and the resulting cleanup is expected to take months, if not years, to complete. In addition, the record storm is blamed for two deaths.

“The federal government is here as a partner,” Trudeau told reporters at Stanley Bridge. “We were working before the storm to prepare for the worst, and the worst happened. But at the same time, we’ve heard tremendous stories of resilience.”

More than 200,000 Atlantic Canadian homes and businesses were still without power Tuesday afternoon, more than 134,000 of them in Nova Scotia and 71,000 in PEI.

Asked if it was time for Ottawa to invest more in burying overhead power lines, Trudeau said there are lessons to be learned from what happened in Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec.

“We’re looking at ways to build more resilient infrastructure,” he said. “The reality is that extreme weather events are going to be more intense in the coming years because our climate is changing. So we have to make sure that we are adapting.”

On Tuesday, the Canadian Space Agency released two satellite photos of Prince Edward Island, one taken on August 21 and the other on September 25, a day after Fiona hit the island with hurricane-force winds that exceeded 140 kilometers per hour.

The second photo clearly shows the clear blue waters around the island laced with huge underwater plumes of sand and land that extend far offshore.

The agency posted a tweet saying the photos illustrate “the extent to which the storm’s extreme wind and wave action has churned up the sea floor and eroded the shoreline.”

In Ottawa, Defense Minister Anita Anand confirmed that there are now about 300 military members helping with recovery efforts in Atlantic Canada, with Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland each receiving 100 troops. Anand said the army is mobilizing another 150 troops in Nova Scotia and 150 for Newfoundland.

The HMCS Margaret Brooke, one of the Navy’s new Arctic patrol ships, was also scheduled to arrive in the remote community of Francois on Newfoundland’s south coast on Tuesday to check on residents.

“They’re helping move people away from damaged and high-risk housing, and they’re being as helpful as possible,” Anand said.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said 13 indigenous communities had been affected by the storm and local authorities are now scrambling to make sure they have enough food and fuel. “They are also focused on rebuilding their fishing supplies and boats, particularly as it relates to their ongoing livelihood,” she Hajdu said.

In Halifax, the region’s largest city, more than 24,000 customers were spending their fourth day without power. During the day, the roar of chainsaws provides most of the background noise in the city, and at night the soundscape changes to the low hum of generators.

The Nova Scotia Power Company released a statement Tuesday saying it had 1,300 technicians and consultants in the field, the company’s largest mobilization in its history. That number includes crews from New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and New England.

Additionally, the company said military members were helping by removing trees and brush, delivering supplies and providing security for trucks and equipment.

At the height of the storm, 415,000 Nova Scotia homes and businesses were in darkness, including 210,000 in the Halifax region and 65,000 in Cape Breton.

Schools and government offices remained closed throughout PEI and much of Nova Scotia, with PEI announcing that its public schools will remain closed until at least Monday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 27, 2022.

— With archives from Michael MacDonald in Halifax and Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa.

Leave a Comment