Friday, May 13, 2011

The Flood Part 3

An aerial view of the Assiniboine River and the Brandon flood zone.

Even with the grave warnings about the flooding that might happen this year, the Selinger government can't seem to get proper information to people about where flooding might happen and how people can protect their homes.

The NDP knew that they would probably be judged on how they fought the flooding this year and they have been pulling out all the stops. Thankfully, after the 1997 flood, the U.S. and Canadian governments put together a thoughtful approach and directly confronted the challenges. With the information derived from that report and consultations between the Liberal and NDP government, plans were drawn up for combat the 1 in 700 year flood that could lay waste to the bulk of the land along the Red River Valley.

In 2005 work began and the the final touches ended just recently.

The Red River Valley has always included all the rivers, streams and tributaries that flow into the Red. Some columnists in some newspapers have praised the sober discussion taking place now. That might be all well and good but the truth of the matter is that western Manitoba was an afterthought in flood preparations this year.

There has certainly been millions spent on raising dikes from Portage la Prairie to Headingley but it has always been geared to 1976 levels which was a much lower threshold than the work done on the Red River Floodway.

There will be grief and anger as the torrents of water will be released in the next hours. The government will be judged in three ways: What they did to prepare, what they did to manage things as it happened and what they are prepared to do afterward.

The NDP government is likely terrified that the flood could very well be in people's minds next October when the provincial vote happens. After more than a decade in power, it will be hard to blame others if things are perceived to be handled poorly.

One thing is quite clear: While western Manitoba has rural and conservative roots and a can do spirit, they have been looking for guidance from government. In fact, they have been begging for direction, information and a plan. So far it has been hard to watch people desperate for help not know what is happening and not sure what to do.

My thoughts are with the people in western Manitoba. Let's hope that the region overcomes the challenges in the days and weeks ahead.

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