House in Surrey damaged by falling tree in late-August windstorm.

House in Surrey damaged by falling tree in late-August windstorm.

Urban society slides into helplessness

Emergency dispatchers flooded with calls for instant answers, some demand freezer compensation, fresh food deliveries

Of all the immature, ignorant whining that came out of the recent power failure in the Lower Mainland, one example summed up the decline of our urban culture for me.

It wasn’t the people who flooded 9-1-1 with calls demanding to know when their power would be restored, or complaining about their freezers. It wasn’t those on Twitter insisting BC Hydro pay for food that went bad. It was another social media moment.

With part of his community without electricity for a third day, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart went to his Facebook page, which has a wide following. There he pleaded with residents to stop phoning city hall to demand that a local big-box supermarket provide milk and eggs.

Power had been restored at the store only a few hours before, in the dead of night, and it’s safe to assume that all stores were working flat out to restock perishables.

Where do people get the notion that city hall, or whatever all-powerful nanny state they imagine, controls grocery stores? How do they conclude that in the midst of the worst electrical grid failure on record, BC Hydro is going to address their personal situation above all others?

Vancouver broadcast media weren’t much better. Their big focus was that BC Hydro’s website crashed, so people couldn’t call it up on their smartphones and find out instantly when their power would be back on.

Some even questioned why wireless power meters didn’t help. Perhaps these were the same journalists who fed the tinfoil-hat superstition about their signals.

The facts should be known by now. After an extremely dry spring and summer, a high wind shattered trees and took down more wires and poles than BC Hydro had ever coped with before. Further damage was done within areas that were already blacked out, leaving overtaxed technicians unable to accurately assess the full extent of it.

In Coquitlam and elsewhere, poles were down in areas too rain-saturated for heavy repair trucks to reach. Yes, there were some too-optimistic repair estimates given out, in response to the constant screeching for instant answers.

About 15 years ago I experienced my worst power outage in the Fraser Valley. In a semi-rural area with little backup grid capacity (since greatly improved), my family went three days without power. This was in winter, due to wind and freezing rain followed by snow and cold.

Trickles of water kept pipes from freezing, and the gas stove provided a bit of heat. I heard no complaints about the crews struggling around the clock with the dangerous job of repair. Media coverage was mostly adult supervised.

Megastorm madness isn’t an isolated case. A couple of weeks before that, a temporary construction bump on the Lion’s Gate Bridge deck caused panic and rage.

Aggravated by a couple of accidents on the alternate route, and fed by hysterical media, drivers of West Van luxury cars were white-knuckled. Traffic choked the region that recently declined to pay a bit more for road improvements.

In both cases, people outside Lotus Land were muttering: Welcome to our world.

This is pertinent to the federal election. Are you competent to save for your retirement with RRSPs and a tax-free savings account, or do you need the government to do it for you, by force?

Are you capable of managing your own child care, or should the nanny state create a hugely subsidized system, which has already failed in Quebec, from coast to coast?

Are you ready for the day when the machine stops?

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. Northern Health confirmed it has the lowest vaccination rates amongst the province’s five regional health authorities. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Vaccination rates in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Fort St James well below provincial average

COVID-19 immunization clinics for youth 12+ coming up in Fort St. James

Steve McAdam (left) is studying substrate conditions in the Nechako River and how they impact sturgeon eggs. The work will help design habitat restoration measures, said McAdam. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Sturgeon egg studies to help inform future habitat restoration

“It’s an interesting, challenging issue,” says Steve McAdam

Saik’uz First Nation Coun. Jasmine Thomas and Chief Priscilla Mueller speak about the need for addiction treatment facility near Vanderhoof, March 2021. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof addiction treatment centre tries again with ministry support

Agriculture minister insists she is not interfering in land commission

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read