Martin C. Barry
At the beginning of Laval city council’s monthly public meeting on May 7, Mayor Marc Demers made a lengthy statement on the efforts by city officials and workers to deal with the devastating spring flooding that swept through Laval and other areas of Quebec last month.
“Mother Nature surprised most of the province in 2017 and also in 2019,” he said. “The City of Laval spared no effort to prepare itself well and on top of that to come to the assistance of our residents.”
Facts about flooding
In a PowerPoint presentation, the mayor shared some comparative facts about the 2017 and 2019 floods. According to the furnished charts, in 2017 Laval had 853 buildings that suffered the consequences of flood waters, while in 2019 there were 377.
However, while in 2017 160 roads and streets in Laval were affected by flood waters, the number this spring rose to 253. Two years ago, the number of properties rendered inaccessible by flooding was 1,382; this year it was just 790.
In 2017, the number of families in Laval that had to be evacuated and taken into shelter stood at 295 (of which 59 were sheltered by the Red Cross), while this past spring the number was 116 (35 of whom were welcomed by the Red Cross).
Emergency calls increased
The number of calls made to the City of Laval’s 3-1-1 central public works switchboard number was 1,782 two years ago, but rose to 3,130 this year (a sign perhaps that more residents were familiar with it and were willing to use the service).
In the meantime, the number of calls made to the main 9-1-1 emergency phone central during the flooding period remained relatively the same (382 calls in 2017, 355 in 2019).
Mayor Demers attributed some of the improvement in the city’s response to the flooding to better preparedness because of the experience from the 2017 floods, as well as the dedication of municipal employees to make great efforts to help minimize damages to the property of residents.
Prepared for flooding
While the city had identified fewer than a dozen potential sites for serious flooding in 2017, this year it had pinpointed as many as 63, according to Mayor Demers. And while 300,000 sand bags were distributed in 2017, 475,000 were given out during this year’s floods in Laval. As well, the city invested considerably in the purchase of inflatable flood barriers.
As Mayor Demers pointed out, the inflatable barriers proved to be highly effective during this year’s floods, especially in certain neighbourhoods like Laval-Ouest, where hundreds of modest homes near the waterfront were safeguarded from water damage in a much more effective way than had been the case in 2017.
As well, large pumps were stationed in strategic locations. Not all of them were near the waterfront, but rather in places where flood water accumulated above ground in pools and small lakes. “Our plan was to prepare for any eventualities while hoping it never happened,” said Demers, while thanking all the city’s employees for their dedication during the crisis, especially the blue collar workers.
During a time period reserved for new business and statements by councillors, Chomedey city councillor Aglaia Revelakis paid homage to victims of the Pontic Genocide during and after World War I, when hundreds of thousands of Greek Orthodox Christians living under Ottoman and Turkish rule were massacred and deported. “This was a very dark period of the 20th century,” Revelakis said, noting that many descendants of these people eventually came to settle in Chomedey.
Recreation workers’ salaries
During public question period, a representative of Laval’s recreation and leisure employees, who are currently embroiled in a labour dispute with the city, asked the mayor whether they could expect to receive salary increases, taking into account that the mayor’s salary was recently increased.
Demers said the wage issue is still being negotiated and that he would not be free to talk about it in public until it’s settled. As for his salary, Demers pointed out that the mayor of Longueuil earns more than $150,000 per year, which is $20,000 more than what he receives.
He also referred to the salaries of the mayors of several other cities in Quebec which are higher than the Laval mayor’s salary. Demers attributed part of the reason for his salary increase to changes in provincial law governing municipalities.