Prime Minister Trudeau visits storm-damaged Quebec islands, promises aid for region

HAVRE-AUBERT, Que. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Quebec’s Iles-de-la-Madeleine Thursday, promising federal support for the archipelago hammered by post-tropical storm Fiona last weekend.

Trudeau met with acting mayor Gaetan Richard and with fishers, seniors and small business owners. The federal government, Trudeau said, will partner with Quebec to help people affected by the storm, which made landfall Saturday and brought hurricane-force winds.

“We have investments to make and we are going to be partners with Quebec,” he promised without announcing anything specific.

Accompanied by National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, who represents the region in Parliament, Trudeau said Canada needs to better adapt its infrastructure to the changing climate, which is increasing the likelihood of devastating storms.

“The reality is that we are going to see more and more intense storms in the years to come …. We will have to adapt our infrastructures,” he told reporters by the water’s edge in Havre-Aubert, Que.

While Ottawa has dispatched hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces members to the Atlantic region to help with the cleanup from Fiona, officials in Iles-de-la-Madeleine made no request for assistance. Defence Minister Anita Anand, however, said the military stands ready to intervene if necessary.

Last weekend, Fiona hit the islands with winds of more than 120 kilometres per hour, damaging roads, roofs and shorelines and flooding buildings.

Trudeau acknowledged it was a close call for fishers at the Pointe-Basse wharf, where many boats remained docked during the storm because a defective crane prevented them from being removed from the water.

Luckily the boats were not badly damaged. “It came close, too close,” Trudeau told the fishers, who asked for more federal assistance to renovate the wharf.

Back in Havre-Aubert, Trudeau was asked why his government is approving offshore oil projects at a time when climate change is making itself felt. Trudeau noted regions like the Iles-de-la-Madeleine still depend on fossil fuels.

“Yes, we have to accelerate the energy transition; we have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas, but we are still in a situation where we need it.” He pointed around him: “All these cars, all this energy on the islands, we still depend on fossil fuels.”

All new fossil fuel projects in the country – including the recently approved multibillion-dollar Equinor offshore oil project in Newfoundland and Labrador – must fit into the country’s plan to have net-zero emissions by 2050, Trudeau said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

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