In Fiona’s wake, politicians reflect on Canadians’ kindness after natural disasters

Brad Vis has learned a lot about how he can help after seeing parts of the communities he represents have been devastated by fire, floods and landslides.

The Conservative MP for riding Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon in British Columbia chokes when he thinks of the fight to support those who have lost everything.

“There will be calls that you are going to receive … and people [say], ‘I don’t have a house. What are you doing for me today?'”

Fish pauses and tries to regain his composure.

LISTENING | MPs talk about helping their voters in times of crisis:

CBC News: The House11:09How do MPs react in times of crisis?

Nova Scotia Liberal MP Mike Kelloway and BC Conservative MP Brad Vis talk about helping voters deal with the immediate effects of natural disasters and preparing for the future.

“When that happens, you can’t solve their problem right away, but you can be there for them and listen,” he continued.

“And you can fight in parliament, you can work down the aisles, you can work with your provincial government, and you can do whatever you can on that day.

“You can’t be a savior, but people will ask a lot of you, and you have to protect your mental health, and you have to keep fighting, because that’s why you’re here.”

Conservative MP Brad Vis, left, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan, center, and Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman are shown speaking at an announcement about funding to rebuild the village of Lytton, BC, on June 14. (Daryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Fish made the comments in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House as part of a conversation about the role of politicians when a community is in crisis.

His driving was not only affected by landslides and flooding last November, but also the village of Lytton, where two people died in July 2021 after record temperatures led to bushfires that destroyed most of the community.

During the discussion, he shared his experiences with Liberal MP Mike Kelloway of Nova Scotia, who is dealing with the effects of post-tropical storm Fiona during his ride on Cape Breton-Canso.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Kelloway said of the state of his community.

‘I’ve seen people’s houses being destroyed. I’ve seen stories, heard of a gentleman who had a roof and who went into the sky and was found three blocks away.’

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, people were looking for tangible support, such as help clearing debris from their properties, answers about the lack of power or cell phone connectivity, Kelloway said.

VIEW | Many are still without power after Fiona:

Many Atlantic Canadians still without power 5 days after Fiona

Five days after post-tropical storm Fiona hit, tens of thousands of people in Atlantic Canada are still in the dark as repair crews face significant obstacles.

It sounds familiar to Vis, who recalls receiving phone calls from people who were separated from family members and were unable to contact them.

The challenges kept mounting – from dealing with how the aid money was being distributed across different communities, to discovering that the town of Lytton had lost all of its municipal records in the fire.

Prepare for the next disaster

In addition to helping meet the immediate needs of their communities, MPs agreed that their parties have a duty to work together to prepare for when – not if – the next natural disaster strikes. It’s a sentiment their voters talk to them about.

Kelloway said that whether he’s in the local legion or in a community hall, people approach him and say, “Mike, these once-in-a-generation storms, they’re regular and climate change is real… And can you please work overtime.” cross party lines to do something about it?'”

Fish hear it too.

“I firmly believe and my constituents firmly believe that in 30 years we will have another flood and we will have wildfires every year. We have to be prepared. Right now we are not.”

For Vis, that means developing a more comprehensive national recovery strategy, working to better coordinate with indigenous communities on the frontlines of natural disasters, and re-examining the role of the Canadian military so that it can be deployed quickly, anywhere. . of the country during a crisis event.

Men walk.
MP Mike Kelloway, second from left, briefs Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona on September 27. They were joined by MP Jaime Battiste, right, and MP Sean Fraser. (Vaughan Merchant/The Canadian Press)

“We need to look very closely at how we deal with natural disasters, how we deal with climate change and what real and tangible infrastructure we are developing and investing in to address the next big thing that happens,” he said.

“This is not a partisan issue. I think all Canadians understand that we have to do better and we can do better.”

‘A lot of kindness’

But in the midst of it all, both MPs were struck by the wonderful character and friendliness of members of their communities, such as the family of recent immigrants in Glace Bay, NS, who offered several days of free food from Jay’s Chicken, the company they recently launched. had taken over.

There is also the story of the Kirpa Collective in Abbotsford, BC, a non-profit organization that was founded in the days following the floods. It mobilized volunteers to help with sandbags and cleanup and provided meals to evacuees and frontline workers.

“For every act of destruction, man, there’s a whole lot of kindness,” Kelloway said.

After the fires and floods during his ride, Vis said he actually had a sense of hope.

“When the disasters happened, people wanted to stand up and help them. And I’ve never seen so many people wanting to help their neighbor,” he said.

“We’re lucky to have people who care about their country. And that’s a beautiful thing that transcends politics. Ultimately, Canadians want to help Canadians.”

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