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Trudeau tours Fiona-hit areas as feds deploy more troops to help with cleanup

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Stanley Bridge, Prince Edward Island to view the damage from Storm Fiona and meet with community members.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Stanley Bridge, Prince Edward Island to view the damage from Storm Fiona and meet with community members.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sarah Déry


Roughly six platoons of Canadian Armed Forces personnel have been deployed in Atlantic Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is touring areas hit hard by post-tropical storm Fiona Tuesday to survey the damage and see how federal resources are helping out on the ground in Atlantic Canada.

The situation is still dire in some parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where thousands of residents are still without power and roadways have been rendered impassable by storm debris.

At a press conference in Ottawa, Defence Minister Anita Anand said more Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel have been deployed to help with the cleanup and support hydro workers as they restore power to wide swaths of the region still in the dark days after the storm ripped through.

There are now about six platoons working in the three provinces most affected by Fiona — roughly 450 military members. That's up from the 300 or so CAF personnel who were in the region yesterday, Anand said.

Asked if Ottawa would send more, Anand said she's ready to deploy additional soldiers if the provinces ask for the support and if there's work for the CAF to do.

We must be able to change our strategy if it becomes necessary, she said. As tasks arrive for the CAF, we obviously will deploy them to those tasks. It is not the case that we don't have troops ready to deploy.

In Port-aux-Basques, the coastal Newfoundland town that was partly flattened by Fiona, the CAF is performing wellness checks, Anand said. The military personnel — some of whom arrived recently on HMCS Margaret Brooke, an offshore patrol vessel — will help move people away from damaged and high-risk homes, the minister said.

Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings, who represents this area of the province in the Commons, said the stories out of Port-aux-Basques are heartbreaking and wrenching.

She said the damage is staggering but vowed Newfoundlanders will build back better once the situation has stabilized.

Storm Fiona caused a lot of damage in Port aux Baques.

Storm Fiona caused a lot of damage in Port aux Baques.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Yan Theoret

In Cape Breton, where thousands of the island's many trees were ripped from the ground, soldiers are helping to clear away the debris to make it easier for Nova Scotia Power crews to repair downed hydro lines. 

In P.E.I., where 60,000 customers are still without power, soldiers are also working alongside Maritime Electric workers to help get the hydro back online.

The sheer number of fallen trees on P.E.I. has made that work difficult to do. CAF members are helping the provincial department of transportation and infrastructure with the cleanup efforts.

Anand said troops will be on the ground for as long as we're needed and the storm recovery is a top priority for us domestically.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he's been in touch with premiers in the region about possible financial support for storm-affected areas.

While this is largely an area of provincial jurisdiction, LeBlanc said there could be a role for the federal government to play in supporting individuals and businesses bearing the brunt of this powerful storm.

LeBlanc said there are conversations ongoing about the government taking a more active role in providing insurance to communities that may become increasingly uninsurable as climate change wreaks havoc.

While the U.S. has a national flood insurance program to help backstop some of the costs of providing coverage, Canada's property and casualty insurance market is almost entirely private.

That means some insurers here may be reluctant to extend coverage to areas increasingly prone to flooding or other natural disasters like wildfires — or the premiums might become too costly for many people to carry. 

This is a direct function of extreme weather events that are, unfortunately, not going to diminish over the coming months, LeBlanc said.

The status quo that may have existed for the last 20 years doesn't seem like the right posture for the next number of years.

John Paul Tasker (new window) · CBC News