As the province responds to ongoing flooding, and in advance of the 2018 wildfire season, government is acting on some of the recommendations in the report, Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia, announced Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
“Their 108 recommendations will take some time to fully consider,” said Donaldson. “There are some recommendations that are being acted on already. For example, as part of Budget 2018, we’re committing $50 million over three years to wildfire prevention and wildfire risk reduction around communities.”
As a result of internal reviews undertaken by both the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC, 19 of the 108 recommendations in the report are being implemented. Some of the recommendations also align with work that the province is doing with the federal government and other provinces, under the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy, and other mitigation and preparedness programming, particularly related to flooding and seismic risks. However, the majority of recommendations are longer term in nature, and may require legislative changes or involve other levels of government.
One of the major themes of the report was to develop closer relationships with First Nations, and that work is already underway with the recent signing of a collaborative emergency management agreement between Canada, British Columbia and the Tsilhqot’in National Government. As well, the BC Wildfire Service is hiring more staff to support partnerships with Indigenous communities and stakeholders.
The BC Wildfire Service will also be working with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and First Nations’ Emergency Services Society on a review of how the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative (a program that provides support to communities for fuel management projects) is funded, and how it can be integrated with other land-based wildfire prevention and wildfire-risk reduction investments.
Another recommendation being acted on is the need to make household emergency preparedness easier for British Columbians. To that end, Emergency Management BC has partnered with Save-On-Foods and London Drugs on the new “Get Good and Ready” emergency preparedness program, now available throughout the province. Emergency Management BC and its partners have also developed emergency management toolkits for Indigenous communities, which have been widely distributed.
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad and Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett both welcomed the final report.
“The report contains 108 recommendations that I am sure are well considered, but the time is now for the government to act quickly,” said Rustad. “People throughout the province need to know that authorities have learned from last year and systems are now in place to safeguard their lives and property.”
MLAs in the affected regions will be reviewing the recommendations of the report and will provide comments and analysis in the near future.
“I am still working with people who lost everything during last year’s floods and wildfires and it’s critical that the government acts now before we find ourselves dealing with another crisis or large scale evacuation,” said Barnett. “I am very much looking forward to see the government’s official response to the report.”
Government will develop an action plan to address the report’s recommendations by Oct. 31, 2018.