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PECKFORD: One for the record books

Larry Peckford has had a varied career in Newfoundland as a public servant and community volunteer. He maintains a seasonal residence in the Codroy Valley. You can reach Larry via e-mail at:

Well, how do you like that? Newfoundland rarely compares itself with the country’s most westerly province, British Columbia. But here we are in Newfoundland taking up media time that describes the heavy rains that took place in both provinces.

Mind you, by quite a margin British Columbia has fared far worse, but southwestern Newfoundland has taken quite a hit what with road washouts, flooded basements and much inconvenience to the communities in the region. As I write, the washouts on the TCH will soon be fixed. That will be a big relief to local residents as well as those all across the province since the movement of goods and services was greatly impacted.

This rain event quickly revealed how vulnerable many in the province are who depend on the Trans Canada Highway as a connector to other parts ….and how quickly things can be disrupted. Being largely reliant on a singular highway to transport many vital goods is a wakeup call in preparing emergency plans for communities and the province generally. It may be time to dust off those plans as the extent of the recent rainfall may have made some of them a little out of date.

While Newfoundland had its own challenges with the distribution of goods via the Trans Canada highway, British Columbia is in another league as, along with its highways, trains transport much to its ports on the Pacific coast that are major shipping and receiving points for the country – think grain, minerals and other natural resources.

Farmers in western Canada feel the impact when grain shipments are delayed. Pacific rim countries ship many containers to British Columbia ports the contents of which finds its way to many places across Canada. And dare we mention the catastrophic flooding of farm land in the Fraser Valley which will take years to bring back, if at all?

For homeowners on the southwest coast, such a heavy deluge of rain should be instructive on how we prepare our homes in anticipation of reoccurring events like this.

A contractor I used some years ago to excavate my basement refused to become involved if I was not installing weeping tile to divert groundwater. Succinctly, he told me, “holes in the ground fill up with water.”

So putting in a basement without weeping tile around its perimeter is a recipe for trouble. And don’t let the weeping tile installation be an afterthought that is not well done. Poor workmanship in this area is just as important as putting the right insulation in the roof.

Eaves troughs and sump pumps are a necessity too and they should not be allowed to be in the “install and forget” category. Mechanical things can fail when you need them most. Testing pumps regularly and getting professional advice on its use can save future trouble.

Likewise, shingle roofs that are past their “best before” date can mean trouble when maxed out by a heavy rain. Insurance companies now often refuse to insure if roof shingles are not replaced in a required time period.

One piece of transportation infrastructure that responded well in this province was the ferry system run by Marine Atlantic. Kudos to that organization for being nimble in its response and mobilizing the port of Argentia quickly so that goods could be moved there as a means to supply much of the province. Marine Atlantic’s ferries were up to the task.

Likewise, the importance of Port aux Basques as a trans shipment port for the province was highlighted and should not to be forgotten as a critical provincial asset.

The stretch of Trans Canada Highway from South Branch to Port aux Basques is – in my view – in poor shape, so I was not surprised at washouts in culverts that were likely old and weakened. I have been talking about this for some time and, in fact, spoke to Transportation officials about it.

Highway reconstruction should take in to account the strategic importance of this part of the province, and new road construction should now be built exceeding normal standards. Municipal leaders and development groups in Port aux Basques and area should get on to this with the provincial government right away! As an entry point to our province this piece of highway has been much neglected in my view. These things can be soon forgotten after the emergency passes.

So amidst a pandemic, a cyber attack on its health system and now the events of a record breaking rain fall, Newfoundland is tested. British Columbia is a far worse case and our experience is only a small reminder of how our fellow citizens on the country’s west coast are holding up with a loss of livelihoods and critical infrastructure.

The economic impact is massive and we wish our fellow Canadians well.

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