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Report: Toronto Narrowly Avoided Disaster During Blackout; People Pretty Much Don't Care and Continue Wanton Use of Electricity

TORONTO, ON (SP) — With the recent release of a report highlighting just how close Toronto and other Ontario cities came to having serious crises during the blackout of August 2003, most citizens pretty much don't let it bother them, and continue to use electricity and other resources as though the blackout had never happened.

Among other things, the report, prepared by the federal Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, indicated that Toronto's water supply almost ran out as a result of non-functioning water pumps. When told of that finding, Dan McAllister of Scarborough responded with a shrug. Having just finished draping the front of his house in electric Christmas lights, he said "I guess that would've been bad, eh? But I'm sure they've fixed the problem by now, and it won't happen again." When asked whether the experience during the blackout had made him think of making efforts towards conserving electricity, he responded with a shrug. "Naw. Electricity still costs the same as before, don't it? If they wanted us to use less, for sure they'd charge more."

Susan Wong of East York told SP that her initial reaction during the power outage was to conserve water, but that the sight of her neighbours washing their SUV convinced her that taking a shower was OK. "It was pretty hot that day, and I'd walked all the way home since the subway wasn't running and the traffic was so bad. And if water was so scarce, I'm sure they'd have had the cops going around checking on people for wasteful water use. How else do you expect anyone to obey that on a hot day?"

Ahmed Muhammad, also of East York, said he remembered hearing during the blackout that people should only use the telephone for emergency purposes. "They said something about that on the radio. But sitting on my balcony, I could hear all my neighbours yakking away on their phones throughout the evening, making calls and taking calls, and what else was there to do? The TV wasn't working. So yes, I talked on the phone for an hour or two." When told of the report's finding that the 9-1-1 emergency system came close to shutting down as Bell Canada ran low on fuel for back-up generators, he responded, "Hmm, well how come they didn't stop us from using the phone, then?"

"Yes, I've heard something about how we should all try to use less electricity," said Sarah Ducharme of Etobicoke. "But if that were true, how do you explain all the massive Jumbotrons they have now around Yonge and Dundas? Plus, the lights in the stairwells and hallways in my apartment building are on 24-7. Same with all the other apartments and condos I've ever seen in Toronto. In some countries they have those motion sensor things, so the hallways are only lit for the 5% of the time there's actually anyone there. If we really needed to cut down our electricity use, I'm sure things like that would be mandatory. But they aren't, so it must be OK to keep using electricity same as always."

"The main thing is, if there really were a problem, the government would be doing something about it. It's not like we actually need a disaster and people to die to convince us when things need changing. We're not that foolish."
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