BY BILL PHILLIPS
On the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan were touring fire devastated areas in the Cariboo, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was in Prince George.
The new leader was toured around town Monday by Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty and Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer, visiting the evacuation centre and the Prince George Fire Department.
“I just wanted to come and thank everyone for doing what they’re doing and let them know that people across Canada are watching with interest and concern,” Scheer said, following a brief tour of the Northern Sport Centre at UNBC, where dormitory-style quarters continue to be provided for evacuees unable to return home.
Stops also included the downtown fire hall and CNC, where the emergency reception centre remains open. More than 10,000 evacuees have registered in Prince George although it’s not clear how many actually stayed in the city nor how many have gone home since evacuation orders were lifted for Williams Lake, most of the surrounding area, and 100 Mile House.
Out of respect for their privacy, Scheer said he did not meet with evacuees while at the NSC. About 70 evacuees remain housed at the facility.
Scheer steered clear of making any political comments.
“I will say at times like this the partisanship kind of drops away,” he said. “We’re all Canadians and disaster response and emergency services is not a partisan issue, it’s not us versus them, it’s how can we help.
Scheer’s visit included a meeting with Mayor Lyn Hall and representatives from the Canadian Red Cross and Salvation Army.
“This is one of the largest mass evacuations in B.C. history,” Doherty said. “Prince George did it, our community really rallied around this impressive event and hearing the stories is one thing but seeing it first hand is another. It might not be over as wildfire season typically begins during the August long weekend. Then there is the aftermath as evacuees work to get their lives back together both physically and emotionally.”
“One of the things I heard today is the need to respond quickly because things can change hour by hour,” Scheer said. “But there are also thoughts about even when the disaster is over, the economic impact, the loss of property, the challenges many people and communities are going to face for months, maybe even years to come after this.”
Trudeau, during his press conference in Williams Lake after touring the fire sites, gave a shout out to Doherty, saying he has done a tremendous job since the fire evacuation crisis hit in early July. He noted that Doherty wasn’t at the Williams Lake press conference saying he was in Prince George “doing other political things.”