Province's handling of spring floods gets low grade from municipalities, survey shows
Leaders say response will get better after unparalleled floods last spring
Quebec and its municipalities have a long list of lessons to learn from last spring's catastrophic floods, according to a provincially commissioned online survey of affected areas.
Municipalities gave the public security ministry a low grade for lack of follow-up, personnel, flexibility, and communication — while noting a number of their own shortcomings.
Municipalities reported that daily phone calls with civil security officials during the flooding "lacked discipline and were too long," said a summary of the survey's findings which were posted online by Quebec's public security ministry this week. A CBC news request to gain access to the raw data was denied.
Municipalities said their interactions with various government agencies were "not at all clear" when they were going through the process of evaluating the damage for financial assistance.
The procedure took too long and there were "not enough government agents on the ground to respond to the needs of municipalities," said the summary provided by researchers from Quebec's school for public administration (ENAP), which conducted the survey of 134 municipalities.
Several municipalities also said they did not want to have to provide the same information to different government agencies.
They also mentioned that they do not want property owners to be allowed to rebuild on flood zones.
During a forum on the Quebec response last Tuesday, Public Security minister Martin Coiteux admitted his government has improvements to make in the way it deals with floods, and said it would produce an action plan in early 2018.
"I am convinced we are able to do better," he said.
Many municipal shortfalls too
The survey found a number of weak points at the municipal level as well.
A third of municipalities' emergency plans are more than five years old, and 75 per cent of them have not been revised since last spring's floods.
Fifty per cent of municipalities that are frequently affected by floods do not keep a registry of where flooding has occurred in the past.
The survey also found that many municipalities, particularly smaller ones, have trouble understanding and making use of flood data, such as information on water flow. A third of municipalities that are downstream to hydroelectric dams do not have direct contact with those responsible for managing them.
More than 15 per cent of homes in Saint-André-d'Argenteuil were affected by the floods.
Mayor Marc-Olivier Labelle expects that municipalities will better prepared next spring.
"We've created some expertise. We now know how it works a bit more. We [now] know how good the maps are," he said.
"We still have some work to do but it will be easier to pinpoint exactly which region will be important to take care of first."