Trudeau says stronger infrastructure needed after inspecting Fiona damage

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STANLEY BRIDGE, P.E.I. — Justin Trudeau travelled Tuesday to the north shore of P.E.I., where he pledged to find ways to build more resilient infrastructure after inspecting the extensive damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona.

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The prime minister was in Stanley Bridge, where a storm surge and hurricane-force winds upended buildings and tossed fishing boats onto the shore early Saturday.

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

In an aerial view, damage at the Stanley Bridge Marina, including multiple boats knocked ashore from wind and storm surge, a day after Post-Tropical Storm Fiona hit the Atlantic coast on Sept. 25, 2022 in New London, Prince Edward Island.
In an aerial view, damage at the Stanley Bridge Marina, including multiple boats knocked ashore from wind and storm surge, a day after Post-Tropical Storm Fiona hit the Atlantic coast on Sept. 25, 2022 in New London, Prince Edward Island. Photo by Drew Angerer /Getty Images

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

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

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Power was knocked out, scores of homes were flattened and the resulting cleanup is expected to take months if not years to complete. As well, the record-breaking storm is being blamed for two deaths.

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

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More than 200,000 Atlantic Canadian homes and businesses were still without electricity Tuesday afternoon — more than 134,000 of them in Nova Scotia and 71,000 in P.E.I.

When 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.

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“We’re looking at ways of building more resilient infrastructure,” he said. “The reality is that extreme weather events are going to get more intense over the coming years because our climate is changing. That’s why we have to make sure we’re adapting to it.”

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On Tuesday, the Canadian Space Agency posted two satellite photos of Prince Edward Island, one taken on Aug. 21, the other on Sept. 25, a day after Fiona lashed the island with hurricane-force winds that exceeded 140 kilometres per hour.

The second photo clearly shows the clear blue waters around the Island streaked by huge underwater plumes of sand and soil extending far offshore.

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

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In Ottawa, Defence Minister Anita Anand confirmed there are now about 300 military members assisting with recovery efforts in Atlantic Canada, with Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland each getting 100 troops. Anand said the military is mobilizing another 150 troops in Nova Scotia and 150 for Newfoundland.

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

“They’re helping to move people away from damaged and high-risk homes, 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 that local authorities are now scrambling to ensure they have enough food and fuel. “They are focused as well on the recovery of their fishing supplies and boats, in particular, as it relates to their ongoing livelihood,” Hajdu said.

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

Nova Scotia’s electric utility issued a statement Tuesday saying it had 1,300 technicians and assessors 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.

As well, the company said military members were assisting 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 the dark, which included 210,000 in the Halifax region and 65,000 in Cape Breton.

Schools and government offices remained closed in all of P.E.I. and much of Nova Scotia, and P.E.I. announced its public schools will remain closed until at least Monday.

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

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