Nfld. & Labrador

N.L.'s Igor response vigorously defended

Responding to criticism that the province waited too long to accept federal help after Hurricane Igor struck last fall, the municipal affairs minister says he wouldn't do anything differently if the province is lashed by powerful hurricane again.

Newfoundland and Labrador's municipal affairs minister says he wouldn't do anything differently if the province is lashed by a powerful hurricane again.

Minister Kevin O'Brien was responding Thursday to criticism the province waited too long to accept federal help after Hurricane Igor struck Sept. 21.

Documents obtained by the Packet, a central Newfoundland newspaper, show the provincial government waited four days to formally request assistance from the military.

O'Brien said it took time to assess the damage and what kind of response was needed.

"I would not change a thing and it's fine for you to say, like looking at an email — a paper trail — and say that somebody up in Ottawa or someone somewhere else was scratching their head," said an emotional O'Brien.

"There is a process. They all offer. Everybody offers. Nova Scotia offered. P.E.I. offered, New Brunswick offered, but you have to have an organized response," he said.

O'Brien was not the minister of municipal affairs during the aftermath of Hurricane Igor. Tom Hedderson was the acting minister of municipal affairs during that period.

Meanwhile, Betty Fitzgerald, the mayor of Bonavista, agrees with O'Brien, telling CBC News she believes the federal military wouldn't have made a significant difference if it had arrived a few days earlier. Fitzgerald's town was hit hard by flooding.

The federal documents suggest Newfoundland and Labrador was too slow to accept federal help after dozens of communities were damaged and isolated by Hurricane Igor.

Eric Squires, the Anglican minister in Catalina and the organizer of relief efforts when people were left without necessities, said the provincial government failed residents.

"[I'm] really disgusted because we were desperate out here for water and bread," said Rev. Squires.

"I called [provincial] fire and emergency services to ask if we could get a boat to go across the bay to get some bread and water and they said 'No, buy what you want and send us the bill.' And during the same time they turned down [federal] help for us."