WEST CARLETON – Several stakeholders attended a closed-door meeting with the provincially appointed flood advisor yesterday (Sept. 5) but too many were still missing for the meeting to be fruitful Coun. Eli El-Chantiry said.
It was invitation only for a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry meeting involving provincially appointed advisor on flooding Doug McNeil and that meant federal MPs, the National Capital Commission, Ontario Power Generation, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the media and the community were left on the outside.
“What’s the point?” Coun. El-Chantiry told West Carleton Online today (Sept. 6) around noon. “That doesn’t really help my community. Where were those partners? Several West Carleton residents requested to meet through the MPP (Dr. Merrilee Fullerton) and were turned down. What’s the point of having a private meeting about public money?”
El-Chantiry said the city spent roughly $5.5 million fighting the flood and will not receive any funding from the province.
City officials at the meeting along with El-Chantiry included Mayor Jim Watson, Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais, Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh and emergency management head Pierre Poirier. Heads of councils from seven other Ottawa-area municipalities and general managers from three area conservation authorities were also invited to the meeting. Long-term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton, the MPP for Kanata-Carleton, and Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari were there, too.
El-Chantiry says the time has come to do more than just return homes to their pre-flood condition.
“We had to fix them in 2017 and again in 2019,” he said. “Will we have to do it again? In my opinion, you are sending good money after bad. Maybe it’s time to start thinking we should do what Quebec did.”
El-Chantiry is referring to a provincial program that Quebec has initiated where the province purchases the properties of those located in the flood zone willing to sell. The councillor says he has heard from residents who would be ready to sell.
El-Chantiry says understanding exactly what caused the flood is important too.
“We also need to know, was everything operating properly and there were no human errors?” he said. “Then what? We’re just going to fix things to the way they were?”
El-Chantiry said the province brought the right person in for the job, but budget constraints have handcuffed McNeil.
“He’s well qualified and a credible resource,” El-Chantiry said. “The advisor made it clear he had a scope and a mandate. He only had a $60,000 budget.”
There was some discussion about a proposed independent review Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, MPP John Yakabuski has been working on. El-Chantiry said for that to happen several stakeholders including the federal government, municipal government and two provincial governments have to agree on.
“The mayor and I both reminded him,” El-Chantiry said. “But that’s not for him to decide alone.”
El-Chantiry also wanted the province to host another public meeting.
“Our community is very engaged and has a lot of questions,” he said. “I was hoping they would have a community meeting. No, they didn’t entertain any of that. No community meeting, no question and answers, no media.”
El-Chantiry did confirm one of the community members that wanted to attend was Constance Bay Gerry Blyth. Blyth recently spoke to West Carleton Online and has done a lot of research on possible man-made causes to extreme flooding.
“He’s a level-headed guy and he knows what he’s talking about,” El-Chantiry said of Blyth.