Canada

Manitoba NDP calling for faster repairs to restore power to northern communities

WINNIPEG —
The Manitoba NDP is questioning why it is taking so long for Manitoba Hydro to restore utilities to fire-ravaged parts of northern Manitoba.

Forest fires in northern Manitoba forced hundreds of people from their homes in July.

Now, more than a month later, people from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nation are still waiting to go home, and they’re wondering why repairs are taking so long.

On Friday, the opposition NDP pointed out during the 2019 ice storm, thousands of damaged poles needed work, yet power was restored in 15 days.

The party noted there are just over one hundred poles needing repair in these First Nation communities, but they’re being asked to wait as long as two months for them to be repaired.

“This work can be done easily. This work can be done in conjunction with all of Manitoba Hydro’s resources,” said Ian Bushie, the NDP MLA for the Keewatinook riding. “They have resources in the non-critical areas. We firmly believe that this is critical work that needs to be done today.”

“These families have been displaced now for a number of weeks, and potentially for weeks more, living out of hotels. So these community members want to get home. These children want to return. They want to be able to attend school. And that ability is just not there because the resources are not being deployed in this area to be able to do that.”

In a statement to CTV News, Manitoba Hydro said it understands the communities’ frustration.

“We’re working as quickly as possible to repair the damaged line to restore power for everyone to return home,” reads the statement.

The Crown corporation said it faced many challenges in repairing the poles.

“Given the lack of road access, much of the work replacing fire-damaged poles must be done by helicopter,” Hydro’s statement went on to say.

“We are also working in challenging Canadian shield terrain where many of the replacement poles must be set in rock. This type of work requires specialized drilling equipment.”

As of Thursday, Hydro said 28 out of the identified 105 damaged poles had been replaced.

The estimated restoration time — subject to changes due to weather and air accessibility — is approximately 5 to 7 weeks.

-With files from Keila DePape and Daniel Halmarson


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