CALGARY – It appears that officials in High River, Alberta were so determined to make sure everyone was kept safe from flood waters that they forgot about the people they are supposed to protect. It took until Canada Day for people in High River to start returning to their homes and businesses. During that time, after the water levels dropped, and the temperatures climbed, many homes and businesses became perfect places for mold to grow.
Many homes are now likely going to have to be demolished because they are not suitable for human habitation.
The cost of recovery for High River will be higher than it might have been.
That is not to suggest that officials, including the RCMP and First Responders were doing things wrong. Their mandates are to keep the public safe. It is the leadership where the decisions must be made to move fast and assess the situation and act.
High River’s Mayor has been faced with a crisis in his community likely larger than anything he ever envisioned when he took office. Bluntly what Mayor would ever be prepared to see almost their entire community washed away?
Since the flood, the RCMP were under fire for a while. Officers had entered homes, and seized firearms left in the homes. The federal government moved quickly to assure people that their property would be returned to them.
Calgary Mayor Nenshi Sets the Standard
There is a sharp contrast between Calgary and High River. In Calgary, the city is moving at the speed of Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The ‘Hell or High Water’ attitude is strong in Calgary. There is a certain lever of confident swagger in Calgary that is only successful if backed up with action. Calgary is an action city.
The City and the Calgary Stampede promised the show will go on. The city has returned to operation far faster than promised.
In Calgary, if an election were called right now, Mayor Nenshi would likely be elected in a cakewalk. His tireless efforts and solid enthusiasm are one of the faces of Calgary. Calgary is moving faster than expected to recover from the flood.
In High River, Mayor Emile Blokland has appeared more lost in his ability to deal with the scope of the crisis. Standing before angry residents, the High River Mayor didn’t seem to express the empathy or the enthusiasm that other leaders in the province have offered.
Throughout the crisis, it has been Calgary’s Mayor who has set a new level for how a Mayor in a crisis should handle the situation.
Mayor Blokland has followed the best advice he was receiving, but optically the High River Mayor has likely been over cautious in allowing safety officials to set the timelines forward for his community.
The contrast is very strong. It will, as Calgary races to leave the declared State of Emergency, as High River now slowly enters recovery stage.
Other communities have in effect dropped off the media radar. Flooding in the Siskika First Nation, and flooding in Morley on the Stoney First Nation Reserve were slow to be noticed, and dropped off the radar almost as fast.
Alberta is know for its action not talk attitude, Calgary is demonstrating that as a way of life in the speed of recovery.
In High River and other communities it appears the provincial government and local officials need to be following faster in Calgary’s lead.