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Surrey politics get misty after heat wave bungle

No clear indication city staff has a plan for next heat warning
Sun-creditSeanGladwellGettyImages
Surrey Coun. Linda Annis suggested mobile misting stations and free transportation for anyone in dire need of cooling, in particular homeless and vulnerable people

The City of Surrey provided no additional cooling services for vulnerable residents during a record-setting heat warning over the weekend, prompting some councillors to call for action at a council meeting Monday evening.

But instead of a unified voice to remedy the situation, things turned political, with no clear indication city staff will be prepared for the next heat warning.

The matter started with Coun. Linda Annis calling for “pop-up cooling centres” in a statement to media Monday morning.

“The city needs to move right away to open some of its many facilities and welcome homeless residents who need a place to stay during the hottest hours of the day… Pop-up cooling centres in city facilities could be quickly set up to alleviate this.”

On Monday evening Coun. Jack Hundial asked staff if there’s a plan to remedy the perceived problem after the temperature in White Rock soared to 37.5 Celsius while Langley reached 42.2 Celsius, according to Environment Canada.

In response to Hundial, Mayor Doug McCallum said there was “misinformation being put out to the public” by some council members.

“We did send out an announcement on Friday,” said McCallum, and staff are “looking into portable fountains.”

In fact, the city issued an online notice, and no media advisory, on “summer heat safety tips,” advising any website visitors of tips for staying safe in extreme heat and that community centres and libraries would be open to all residents (as they normally are).

Annis then suggested vulnerable and homeless people can’t always get to community centres and suggested mobile misting stations and free transportation for anyone in dire need of cooling.

Coun. Doug Elford acknowledged the problem.

“We always seem to be panicking at the last second. Why aren’t we planning this thing six months in advance, say in the winter… We always seem to be not prepared. If we know it’s coming we should be prepared.”

But Coun. Allison Patton shot down the idea of misting stations.

“Perhaps there’s a smarter way of handling it,” said Patton, adding she cooled down with air conditioning.

Patton said councillors should come up with novel ideas, not just ones seen around the region already.

“The city’s so large; that’s a lot of mist.”

gwood@glaciermedia.ca