Cape Breton mayor calls for flood response with human touch

Published: May 16, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



One Canadian mayor says authorities and companies need a human touch when dealing with floods, while he also calls for development permits on flood plains to stop.

Cecil Clarke, mayor for Cape Breton spoke out after his municipality was applauded for the way in which it managed the historic 2016 Thanksgiving Day flood. That event destroyed over 30 homes in the town and caused infrastructure disturbances through road closures. Clarke and the town won praise for the thorough and thoughtful response to the situation.

“With our (flood risk) studies we’ll be looking at do we or don’t we provide a development permit,” Clarke said. “There’s no value in providing a permit to an area that’s going to ultimately result in another cost another day.”

In his city, authorities look more closely at waterway flood risks on proposed construction zones, seeking to mitigate the effects of new-build floods. For neighbourhoods already on flood plains, the city is adding mitigations to help stop flooding.

“There are areas that are flood prone,” he said. “In the case of Sydney (Nova Scotia), within the first week I suggested to the province that we basically buy out the neighbourhood of 17-20 homes and move on and make it a no-development zone. Since then people are moving and homes have been torn down and we still haven’t had that resolution. There are areas of improvement.”

Cape Breton knows about flooding. Just last week the municipality saw six consecutive day sof heavy rains, although Clarke says a disaster stage was never reached. Indeed, the mayor is cautiously optimistic about the ability to combat flooding. He says other regions with flood prone areas should work to find solutions before events occur.

“You have to deal with the fact that this impact on individuals has to have a human response,” Clarke said.

“People think they’re protected but when you have overland flooding there’s issues where people thought they had protection and they didn’t,” Clarke said.

“So we had to go through new processes, so we have to work with the industry better as governments. And the industry has to come together so that we’re all part of the public education. Especially in flood prone areas.”