OTTAWA – Ottawa River-side residents are keenly aware we are now closer to the 2020 spring freshet then we are the extreme flooding experienced in the spring of 2019.
Yesterday, (Nov. 23) around 200 protesters, including a large contingent from West Carleton, rallied outside the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) offices demanding the lowering of the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence seaway water level in order to spare the waterside residents the devastation they faced during the 2019 spring freshet.
The main organizing group of the Stop the Flooding rally was a group known as unitedshorelineontario.ca (USO). The rally started outside of the IJC’s front doors although it was unlikely anyone was home on a Saturday. Either way, nobody answered the door.
Sarah Delicate is one of the leading organizers of the USO, mostly based in the southern Ontario area of St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario and Toronto regions. Protesters also were expected from Gananoque, Bowmanville and Brockville.
Using a bullhorn and a milk crate (the modern-day soap box), Delicate was the first to address the crowd.
“We are here because people have put shipping profits ahead of people’s homes,” Delicate said.
Many believe Plan 2014, regulated a higher water level for the aforementioned waterways as well as creating other conditions which have attributed to the recent spate of flooding.
“We are being ignored,” Delicate said. “We are here to say we will not be ignored. This is not just climate change.”
Delicate says Lake Ontario needed to be lowered more than half a metre by the end of December or waterfront residents and businesses will face extreme flooding again next year.
Delicate says there are six IJC commissioners “who control the balance of our lives.”
Delicate said she is off work with a disability as she deals with post-traumatic stress disorder related to spring flooding.
Constance Bay’s Bruce McClure was one of several West Carleton residents attending the rally. He lives on Bayview Drive, about 10 houses down from the border of where the electricity was shut off for more than two weeks during the flood. That electricity allowed him to save his home.
He said he’s here, on the wind tunnel known as Laurier Avenue West, to have his voice heard.
“Basically, my concern is over what’s going to happen with our house next year,” he told West Carleton Online. “The water level last year was two-and-a-half feet above our basement floor. We were fortunate, we were able to keep the water out. If the water was any higher there isn’t much we could have done.”
Some of his family wasn’t quite as fortunate.
“My parents-in-law, who are in their mid-70s were in the area that had their power shut off, and they had structural damage,” McClure said. “That’s their investment. That’s their retirement, that house. I fear it’s just going to continue.”
McClure hopes the rally will create a little noise on an issue that seems to be leaving the public’s conscious.
“I’m hoping at least the public starts to realize, I think there is some environmental effect going on here, but I also think there are some man-made effects that are helping with the problem,” McClure said. “I think they need to go back and look at the plans they put in place for regulating water levels.”
West Carleton Coun. Eli El-Chantiry also attended the rally. He wants the same thing as McClure.
“I’m trying to bring some attention to what we’ve been asking for all along, an independent review,” El-Chantiry told West Carleton Online. “What took place and where we go from here. I’m just saying if this is climate change, then fine, what’s your plan to deal with climate change? Are you going to buy some people out? Are you going to help them to relocate? Are you going to give them money to protect their property and build higher? So far, we haven’t heard anything other than you can apply for Ontario’s disaster relief and hopefully you will qualify, but there’s no plan for the future. We were hoping all along to open that dialogue and have a review, I’m not pointing the finger at anyone, maybe there’s no one to point the finger at. We need to know what we need to be prepared for and protect our residents.”
And surely time must be running out with the 2020 spring freshet possibly, only five months away.
“You’re absolutely right, and there’s no shortage of asking,” El-Chantiry said. “I think you and I talked about it within the first three days of the flooding. We need to know what’s happening and how we’re going to protect our residents.”
El-Chantiry says the city spent $5.7 million related to the flood response.
“How many times can you afford to spend that as a taxpayer?” El-Chantiry said. “So, you have to have a sustainable plan.”
Delicate says there is some good news coming from the province.
Amidst chants of “lower the water” Delicate pointed out “Ontario has no representation on the IJC board. Premier Doug Ford has written a letter to Trudeau demanding representation.”
Delicate then invited protesters to share their flood story. Several took the opportunity including Constance Bay resident Gerry Blyth.
Several protesters wrote sticky pad notes to the IJC and stuck them on the front door. The rally even had a protest song, accompanied by guitar.
The song was called One in 100 and featured the chorus “One in 100, Hey IJC, fix your plan, we want to be flood free.”
“If we don’t do anything about it, you’ll be filling sandbags year after year after year,” Delicate said.
The group of protesters then made the relatively short march to Parliament Hill to continue the protest.
Constance Bay flood meeting
CONSTANCE BAY – Just three days before the flood rally, Blyth was leading his own flood-related event (Wednesday, Nov. 20).
Blyth was hosting a meeting based on his research called The Ottawa River Floods 2019: A Presentation of Facts.
Blyth, a well-known 30-year Constance Bay resident, has spent months and months reading documents and researching stakeholder organizations. Blyth was hit hard by the flood in 2017 and 2019 and just was not prepared to accept the official line without cold, hard proof.
More than 140 filled the NorthWind Wireless Fibre Centre theatre Wednesday evening to listen to Blyth, some coming as far away as Gatineau.
“We didn’t expect it to happen again, but it did in 2019 and this time worse,” Blyth told the attendees. “I’ve become addicted to researching the issue. I’m going to tell you things you will find bewildering and make you mad. I’m going to piss you off and that’s my intention because we’re not mad enough and we’re not loud enough.”
Much of Blyth’s presentation was covered in our September interview which you can read here.
Not everyone in attendance agreed with Blyth’s hypothesis but all were interested in his thoughts.
“I’m sure everyone in this room believes in climate change,” Blyth said, “I do believe in climate change. I don’t believe it caused this flooding. What I read in to this is they sacrificed us to save Montreal. Is the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board and the IJC working together to protect shipping profits? I know I’m creeping up on conspiracy theory, but we need to know. The governments of Ontario, Quebec and Canada need to know we’re mad as hell. Any hint of conspiracy theory and we lose all credibility.”
Gatineau’s Denis Hammond is one who is not afraid to creep in to conspiracy theory territory, loudly.
“Missing, deleted, lost website pages,” he said. “There’s a hell of a conspiracy. You didn’t want to say it. I am saying it.”
Hammond, who also spoke at yesterday’s rally, says there’s even more proof spring flooding in the area was a planned response to protect shipping interests and Montreal.
“We don’t trust the numbers,” Hammond told West Carleton Online. “There’s so much going on there. Gerry’s got a lot of information, but there’s a lot more out there.”
He recommended visiting the Riverside Coalition of the Outaouais website for some of that information.
MP Karen McCrimmon was the only politician who attended Blyth’s meeting. McCrimmon is also a resident of Constance Bay, but her home was spared from the flood.
“I thought it was very interesting,” she told West Carleton Online. “Blyth has some good questions. I do challenge that Quebec was not worse off than us. There’s still people hurting.”
McCrimmon says she will share Blyth’s presentation.
“I’m going to ask Gerry for his presentation and share it with some people,” she said.