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A plan and a plane going north helps to keep people safe on the water

Manitoba Hydro employee delivers PFDs to a northern community

Five men stand in front of a building; two of the men hold a PFD between them.

John Mason delivers PFDs to St. Theresa Point’s Chief Elvin Flett and councillors Greg Wood, Marshall Mason, and Victor Walker.

Enlarge image: Five men stand in front of a building; two of the men hold a PFD between them.

When Lifesaving Society Manitoba needed help distributing personal floatation devices (PFDs) to northern communities, Manitoba Hydro’s John Mason delivered.

Unlike the jolly guy in a red suit, John didn’t have a crew of eight tiny reindeer to help him make an overnight delivery, he relied on his knowledge of the north and the support of his colleagues to get PFDs to St. Theresa Point, where he was born and raised.

When PFDs arrived from Winnipeg early December, they landed in Thompson, and were quickly dispatched to Garden Hill, where they waited for a winter road.

Once a winter road was ready and time off for December’s festivities was taken, the PFDs were on the move, but Omicron forced northern communities into lockdown, so John waited.

Once it was safe to deliver the PFDs, John journeyed to St. Theresa Point to hand-deliver PFDs to Chief Elvin Flett and councillors Greg Wood, Marshall Mason, and Victor Walker.

“John’s commitment to safety, his experience travelling on winter roads in one of the coldest climates in Canada, and the resourcefulness of everyone involved in getting the PFDs delivered is an accomplishment," said Manitoba Hydro’s Ed Danyluk. “I commend John and thank everyone for helping get the PFDs out to the northern communities where our friends, families, and neighbours live.”

The story behind the journey

The goal of the Manitoba Coalition for Safer Waters Lifejacket Loaner Program is to reduce the frequency of drownings in northern and remote communities. Manitoba Hydro is a member of the coalition. As part of the program, PFDs are loaned at no cost to applicant communities that are surrounded by water, which is fished, travelled upon, and enjoyed as part of northern life.

While called a loaner program, the PFDs are managed by the community for its members to ensure availability to all in need.

“While the program is funded by the Government of Manitoba, the less we spend on shipping, the more PFDs we can make available,” said Lorne Edwards, media coordinator, Lifesaving Society Manitoba, explaining the program has distributed close to 8,000 PFDs to 100 communities since the program began in 2006.

Manitoba Hydro’s Gary Shingleton worked with Lorne to coordinate the delivery north and Ed welcomed the opportunity to help distribute the floatation devices.

“Our staff routinely travel into Island Lake and other communities for outages and to do maintenance,” said Ed. “I knew we would get the PFDs there as soon as we could.”

On February 8, PFDs were delivered to St. Theresa Point courtesy of Manitoba Hydro.