In Merritt, we continue to feel the devastating effects of the 2021 wildfires and floods. It is evident that our province has not been prepared to handle natural disasters of this magnitude and many residents have yet to return home.
On October 6th, the government announced their long-anticipated emergency and disaster management legislation. Prior to this legislation being tabled, I, like many, was hoping to see significant changes that would increase clarity around communications, further support for Emergency Support Services, expedited services for those evacuated, and a complete renewal of Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) so that it better serves British Columbians.
Unfortunately, it appears this bill has significant gaps in all of these areas, and in fact, may serve to increase confusion. People can expect to have to jump through more bureaucratic hurdles as a result of this legislation, putting greater stress on families in times of crisis.
We also see that if this legislation is passed, the burden placed on municipalities will only continue to increase. Through this bill, the Minister can require City Councils to report on any matter which includes risk assessments, emergency management plans, and business continuity plans, leaving our small communities to juggle another added pressure.
Since 2017, there has been several opportunities to call meaningful emergency and disaster legislation for debate, but each opportunity has passed without changes being made. After seven years of waiting, British Columbians deserve more than empty promises and more layers of bureaucracy, they need results that will ease their burdens and keep their communities safe.
Our BC United Opposition will continue to ask tough questions about this and other legislation, and I will continue to be a voice for the concerns of Merritt residents at every opportunity.
– Jackie Tegart, MLA Fraser-Nicola