The medium is the message.

The flood information meeting held on Wednesday July 31st at Archbishop Romero High School was a follow-up to the one held on July 19th at York Council Chambers. Again, almost 200 residents filled the gym. It was immediately apparent that steps had been taken to control their response. For whatever reason, a uniformed police officer was posted at the back of the room. If Ms. Nunziata felt threatened by this crowd of grandparents, parents, and children, she must lead a very sheltered life.

The meeting format was organized by Ward 11 resident, Sean McConnell. He began the proceedings by restricting questions to ‘only those who live in the area and whose homes have been flooded’.

Organizer Sean McConnell sets the ground rules.
Organizer Sean McConnell sets the ground rules.

Once the introductions were over, the meeting began with a series of anonymous softball questions allegedly emailed from residents. Whether the authors of these questions were in the audience or not seemed irrelevant. A phalanx of City of Toronto and TRCA officials was on hand to provide responses. After these had been answered, Councillor Nunziata talked about what the city was doing  to address residents’ concerns. Residents were then permitted to come to the microphone to seek answers.

Representatives from the city, TRCA and Granite Claims listen to residents.
Representatives from the city, TRCA and Granite Claims listen to residents.

Some interesting points were raised during the audience questions.

One resident’s basement flooded on the 7th July, the day before the storm and he was told by a city representative that the sewer was blocked. The resident showed proof that a city employee had reported the matter in spite of statements to the contrary from the official at the meeting.

A resident shows proof that sewers were blocked the day before the flood.
A resident shows proof that sewers were blocked the day before the flood.

City Council has passed a motion to ‘look at opportunities to advance’ a ‘sewer overflow control’ public meeting scheduled for the fall of 2013.

Until the assessment is done it will take 3-5 years to get a solution implemented.

Quick fixes such as a berm along Black Creek might provide a temporary solution.

The city has ended its special garbage collection ( information to the contrary was given during the meeting).

Some residents reported that Backflow prevention valves had failed. Apparently they require a homeowner inspection every three months and flushing out twice annually otherwise they are liable to fail.  There is a proposal to increase funding to allow a greater subsidy but the process is complicated, expensive and probably beyond the reach of many. As one resident pointed out, the unpleasant task of inspection and flushing will likely be neglected too.

Another council motion has requested consideration of an increase in backflow valve subsidies.

If your backflow valve failed, the city says your contractor is responsible, not the city.

If residents think that city negligence caused damage to their properties, they should make a claim.

Backflow valves and a sump pump on display.
Backflow valves and a sump pump on display.

The bridge on Humber Boulevard that crosses the Black Creek concrete trench is irreparably damaged and will be replaced.

The City had an opportunity to apply to the province for state of emergency funding but unlike neighbouring Mississauga, failed to do so before the deadline.

Here is a list of basement flooding protection projects taking place in Toronto from 2013-2016. Nothing is planned for Ward 11.

Laura Albanese confirms that unlike Mississauga, Toronto failed to act before the deadline.
MPP Laura Albanese confirms that unlike Mississauga, Toronto failed to act before the deadline.

Towards the end of the meeting I was challenged by Sean, one of MPP Laura Albanese’s staffers, stating that I would need signed releases for the photographs I was taking. Luckily, not having been born recently (or even yesterday) I was able to help the young man with this particular gap in his education.

Albanese staffer Sean possibly obtaining legal advice on photography.
Laura Albanese staffer Sean possibly listening to legal advice on photography in public meetings.

No doubt Ms. Nunziata considers the meeting a success. Nobody shouted at her and her message was heard clearly. The message was, ‘we’re doing all we can to help’. If only that was true.

The fact is that residents have been let down by a lack of action. The flooding of basements in certain areas of the city has been public knowledge for years – for example this map from 2005 clearly shows chronic flooding areas (Ward 11, areas 6 and 4) in Weston and around Cordella Avenue. If planning had started in 2005, the problem would have been solved by now.

Politicians have focussed on more glamorous projects and on keeping property taxes low. If anyone needs evidence of the neglect of sewers, all they have to do is walk through Lions Park where a large sewer runs alongside the Humber. On most days the park smells like, …well, a flooded basement.

6 thoughts on “The medium is the message.”

  1. Thanks Roy, and it’s interesting to see what doing all they can means: just after I read your report of the meeting (including the announcement that the special garbage collection had ended), I got an e-mail from France Nunziata’s office giving details procedure for preparing garbage for this (apparently cancelled) pick-up.

    Deja vu, I .guess.

    What a travesty this array of officials (and a police officer) makes of meeting to hear citizens’ concerns.

  2. Hilarious. Thanks for the story. I am glad Nunziata was protected. If she wasn’t, she might of been thrown in the basement.

  3. I think the meetings are only being held so it looks like Nunziata wants to do something. Let us not forget elections are coming up and she needs votes. During the first meeting she only listened after people talked about not voting for her again.

    Some residents in the area have been flooded more then once this year. The first time no one cared but the second time affected blocks of people, so now she takes notice. At the meeting I learned the neighbourhood is a meeting place for many sewer trunks and the city have known about the potential for basements to become flooded for many years. The people doing the studies do not live in the areas so they don’t care. The people living in the area are not paying the highest taxes so the city really doesn’t care.

    TRCA mentioned the area was a number one priority and yet nothing can be done. Sadly us residents are left with devalued properties and parts of homes we are afraid to use.

    I think the city should just buy the homes because I am sure its going to be cheaper to relocate the people then to put the millions of dollars required in order to put a band aid on the situation they have know about since Hurricane Hazel.

  4. Did anyone ask Nunziata why she supported a subway in Scarbourgh just days after the flooding in which experts say is not needed? The extra 1 BILLION could go to helping preventing flooding in the future. I hope people are aware of her snake ways. And where has the Mayor been? He has done SQUAT to help people during this flooding

    1. Mayor Doesn’t care because the people in the area are not Rich and will not help his political goals. Ward 11 the poorest or second poorest ward in the City and its seems clear that the city has forgotten that it even exists. Nunziata is in the Mayors pocket, if he says jump she says how high. She is only concerned with her pay chq. Hopefully those in the ward decide its time for a change come election time.

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