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

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read