Frustration mounts as thousands in Toronto remain without power
Published Thursday, December 26, 2013 6:39PM EST Last Updated Thursday, December 26, 2013 10:58PM EST
Tempers and frustration boiled over Thursday for some people who continue to spend their Christmas holidays without heat and electricity. At the same time, officials acknowledged that efforts to restore power could slow down as crews shift their focus to some of the worst affected areas and individual homes.
As of late Thursday afternoon, 48,000 Toronto Hydro customers were still powerless on Boxing Day, down from 300,000 last Sunday. Close to 9,000 Hydro One customers, the majority in Guelph, Orangeville, Bolton and Dundas, still had no electricity.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Thursday was yelled at while he attended a barbecue at Toronto Community Housing building in Scarborough.
“When you ran for the election, you said you were for the people, you’re not for the people. Look at what your people are going through,” the frustrated resident said. She asked Ford why more additional help was not brought in from surrounding areas. “I’m upstairs freezing my ass off, Mr. Ford.”
Ford responded: “I can’t get the power restored immediately, I understand your frustration.”
The city began welcoming emergency crews from other jurisdictions on Monday -- including those from Windsor, Ottawa, Michigan and Manitoba -- but questions have been raised by Ford’s opponents at city council who wonder why the mayor did not declare the ice storm’s aftermath a state of emergency.
Ford has the power to declare a state of emergency, but city council stripped the mayor of most of his powers last month after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine. Authority over an emergency now falls to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
Ford has said over the last week that declaring a state of emergency would not have helped the relief effort.
Some criticized Kelly Thursday for travelling to Florida amid ongoing recovery efforts, but the deputy mayor told CP24 that he stayed in touch with senior city staff “the entire time.”
Kelly said he flew to Florida on Christmas Day to see family and returned Thursday. He said it was important to spend time with family members.
“When you have a career in politics, you don’t see family that often,” he said.
Frustrations spill onto Facebook
Many people expressed their frustrations Thursday via social media. One central hub for discussion continued to be Toronto Hydro’s Facebook page.
One person, who said she has been without power since Sunday, wrote “96 plus hours without any power....ridiculous and unacceptable. Ford, wake up! This is an emergency.”
Another user wrote that she could not understand “why external reinforcements were not called in sooner. It was well known on Saturday and Sunday that 300,000 residences were affected by this massive ice storm. Why has it taken so long to get help from surrounding communities?”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said at a Thursday afternoon press conference that she understood people’s frustrations as the crisis wears on.
“The province is working as quickly as possible to reconnect homes, business and farms. All the required provincial resources available are being mobilized without a formal declaration of emergency,” Wynne said. “I know when I talk about 82 per cent recovery, and we talk about the number that has come down, there are still a lot of people who don’t have power in their homes, so we will continue to work with the same urgency as we have been.”
The reassurance came as cold comfort to some, however.
One Facebook user said that she was on her sixth day without power. “Enough is enough, get everything fixed today or tell us exactly when the area will be fixed. Im tired of the vagueness. Incredibly disorganized that a major city takes almost a week to repair affected areas.”
Another person wrote that “Toronto Hydro gives no answers,” while one man wrote that he thought he had a better chance of“seeing (a) Dickiee Dee Ice Cream truck than a Hydro truck before the end of tomorrow.”
Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said that while he was happy with the progress crews have made, efforts to restore power will now likely slow down as crews work on the most impacted areas and individual homes.
Haines said if residents see that their neighbours have power and they still don’t, it could be an issue with their home.
“It may be something in your home or something in our system,” he said. “There may be some value in you calling us again.” Haines added that Toronto Hydro was aware of all power outages in the city.
Haines also acknowledged that some people’s frustrations are likely stemming from the fact that they are having trouble getting a response from the agency. He urged patience, saying that on a typical day Toronto Hydro receives between two to three thousand calls. On Wednesday it received 38,000. Last Sunday, it received 128,000 calls.
But for every person expressing frustration, there were many people expressing gratitude for the hard work hydro crews have undertaken.
“The hydro workers are trying (their) best, over extend their efforts and sacrifice from their family/personal time to restore power, I really appreciate that and thankful,” one person wrote.
“My heartiest Merry Christmas to the entire Toronto Hydro crew,” said another user, who said he was still without power. “For giving up their Holidays and time with families to work on the restoration.”