Candidates in Knoxdale-Merivale running against incumbent Keith Egli said the city’s communication with residents in hard-hit neighbourhoods wasn’t good enough in the days after tornados ripped through western parts of Ottawa and Gatineau.
Luigi Mangone said the lack of information he saw coming from city sources last week, and Egli himself, about where to get both food and water, and when power would be back on was a problem.
“There should be a list of leaders and people within the ward that [Egli] could have been communicating with to say ‘these are their next steps, get food, get water at the ready, let’s get moving forward,’” he said in an interview after the debate.
Magone said he was with the Manordale Community Association the Sunday after the storm helping give out water and bring supplies.
“There could have been more communication with the people who had cars and access in different locations in the city to be able to say ‘I need water, we need food, we need paper plates.’”
Egli said post-tornado rebuilding is the biggest issue facing the city right now and plans for recovery and reforestation are needed. He said the immediate aftermath of the storm was “challenging.”
Mangone said Egli should have distributed fliers with key information after the storm, but Egli said it’s not an easy thing to do quickly.
"It’s easy to say you can flyer," he said. "But there were parts of the city you can’t get into safely, where we had no communication in terms of cell phone, in terms of Internet and we are going to go back and look at that."
Egli said the hardest hit areas, like Craig Henry and Arlington Woods, weren't safe for untrained people to walk through. The city had to bring in specially trained volunteers with proper boots and equipment to go in.
James Dean said Barrhaven City Councillor Jan Harder and Member of Provincial Parliament Lisa MacLeod set examples for how politicians should communicate after a natural disaster.
“Thank goodness Jan Harder is such a strong councillor and had everything set up.” Dean said. “The city just did not know where people were needed."
Warren Arshinoff agreed that Harder and MacLeod responded well to the tornado and criticized the lack of an emergency shelter open in Ward 9.
“When you have seniors with no power, you have people with illnesses, you have road congestion, you have people with no food, no hot water, why is driving half an hour to Barrhaven the only viable option?” he asked.
Egli said the city has learned lessons for future natural disasters in the aftermath of the tornado damage. He said he wants to look at working with local media, especially radio, to broadcast hourly alerts during emergencies with details on what is happening, what people should do and where they can get help. He said he also wants to push the City to create an annual day to focus on emergency preparedness education so people can be ready “before the disaster.”
“It’s very much a partnership between the community and the city. We learnt a lot from this experience and I think we can build on that and put some safe guards going forward,” he said.
“There’s a lot of work that’s got to be done but I’m so proud of my residents, they have all pulled together so strongly on this.”
Traffic calming and congestion in the ward was also a big issue brought up at the debate. Arshinoff suggested a carpool only lane during rush hour to fix the “trying” issue of congestion on Merivale Road. Peter Anthony Weber said OC Transpo service needs to be cheaper and faster, which would encourage more people to take the bus instead of driving.
Voting day in Ottawa’s municipal election is on Oct. 22.