POLITICS

New Brunswick Liberals raise concerns with EMO response to recent storms

01/07/2014 01:38 EST | Updated 03/09/2014 05:59 EDT
FREDERICTON - The response to last month's winter storms in New Brunswick that left some areas without power for more than a week highlights the need for the provincial government to come up with a plan for natural disasters, three years after it was promised, the Opposition Liberals said Tuesday.

Rick Doucet, who represents Charlotte-The Isles, said Tuesday he heard from his constituents that there was poor communication from the Emergency Measures Organization as they coped with blackouts in subzero temperatures.

"There were no updates and no communication whatsoever. People didn't know what to do," said Doucet.

"People were basically picking up the phone and calling whoever they could to get some help."

Doucet said he wondered why there remains no sign of a plan from the Emergency Measures Organization to deal with natural disasters. Such a plan was promised by the provincial government following flooding in southwestern New Brunswick in December 2010.

"Here we are three years later, and basically we are in the same situation where there was very limited response," he said.

The government did not make the public safety minister or officials from the Emergency Measures Organization available to respond but they put forth government backbencher Carl Urquhart, who said he did not know the status of the plan.

"I've got no idea on that. I'm not a cabinet minister, but I do know that it was analyzed on the ground after that flood," Urquhart said.

"As far as where is the paper plan to go out to you folks or whoever, I'm not the guy to ask for that."

Still, Urquhart said he is confident the Emergency Measures Organization is prepared for storms.

"Yes, we could have gotten there quicker. Yes, we could have gotten more people," he said. "But the reality of it is, we were ready."

About 170,000 NB Power customers lost electricity during the storms and almost half of them lost power more than once. Some people lost power as many as six times.

Doucet called on provincial auditor general Kim MacPherson to review the response to last month's storms. MacPherson won't commit to a review but said she'll add it to her list of concerns to consider.

"I'm aware of the public reports and what took place and the severity of the storm and the number of people who did not have power for many days," MacPherson said.

"That's pretty serious, but whether the work of my office could make recommendations that would rectify that situation in the future ... that's what I would think about in deciding if we do work in that area."

Doucet said he is pleased with the work by NB Power crews and other first responders such as fire departments and service groups during last month's storms.