Who is missing from this picture?
Today, the Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Federal Recovery Efforts for 2017 BC Wildfires met with members of the British Columbia government, First Nations community leaders and representatives from the Canadian Red Cross to discuss progress and next steps in the response to the ongoing wildfires.
From Ottawa: Ministers Carla Qualtrough, Karina Gould, Ralph Goodale, Carolyn Bennett, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jean-Yves Duclos, Harjit Sajjan, Lawrence MacAulay, and Jane Philpott.
From Victoria: Ministers Doug Donaldson, Mike Farnworth, Scott Fraser, Claire Trevena, Lana Popham, and Parliamentary Secretary Jennifer Rice.
From Indigenous communities: Grand Chief Edward John, Grand Chief Stewart Philip, Grand Chief Doug Kelly, and Acting Regional Chief Maureen Chapman.
From the Red Cross: Kimberley Nemrava and Melanie Soler.
That’s great. But where are the local government representatives?
Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb, 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall, and Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond were the go-to people during the first three to four weeks of the fire catastrophe in this province as all three dealt with massive evacuations of their communities. All three wore their hearts on their sleeves and showed the weight of leadership as heart-wrenching decisions have to be made.
Here in Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall and council have been lauded, and rightly so, for how the community reacted to the logistical problem of housing more than 10,000 evacuees. Kamloops did the same, as did Kelowna and a host of other communities.
There is no doubt Indigenous communities throughout the Cariboo-Chilcotin faced the same issues of evacuation and property destruction, so there is no question those communities should be involved in ongoing discussions of “joint response, recovery and rebuilding efforts.”
But shouldn’t all local communities be involved in those talks? Why the segregation?
Of course, the City of Williams Lake council has passed a motion calling on the senior levels of government to cough up $1 billion for wildfire compensation. Maybe the upper levels of government only wanted to deal with reasonable requests.
The feds and the province aren’t likely going to ignore local government. But wouldn’t it make sense to get everyone around the table at the same time?