BC flooding: MPs hold urgent debate

OTTAWA – The House of Representatives held an emergency debate Wednesday night over the devastating floods in British Columbia amid increased attention to how prepared the country is for climate impacts. change.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the debate to once again assure the people of British Columbia that the federal government, which has deployed more than 500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces, will be there to support them and help them. rebuild after deadly floods and landslides.

But he also took the opportunity to stress the need for positive action to combat climate change.

“We know that this is not an isolated case,” he told House.

Trudeau noted that BC has suffered devastating wildfires and record high temperatures this summer and Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador are currently experiencing flooding due to heavy rain.

“If last year has shown us anything, the effects of climate change have come sooner than expected and they are devastating,” Trudeau said.

He pledged to focus “the full power of government and the full force of our commitment to real, meaningful climate action”, including carbon-reduction measures and strategies. national adaptation.

While his government has invested “record amounts” to help build more resilient infrastructure, Mr Trudeau has promised to boost funding for cities through the Adaptation and Reduction Fund. Mild Disaster.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair has repeatedly stressed that preventing similar climate-induced disasters in the future will mean “significant new investments.”

MP Elizabeth May of Vancouver Green Island said her husband’s ranch is now sheltering “climate refugees” for the second time this year. The world is now on track to meet the “past” goal of keeping global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, she said, because no country, including Canada, is doing it. what is needed.

“This is not about bad weather. This is about whether human civilization can survive,” she told the Commons. “No matter could be more compelling, the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

Among other things, Mrs May said the federal government should scrap the TransMountain pipeline expansion project and put people to work to rebuild communities affected by extreme weather and infrastructure. necessary infrastructure to prevent future devastation.

Conservative MP Ed Fast, who is based in Abbotsford in the heart of BC’s floodplains, wants to focus more on the immediate disaster and the needs of those affected. But he also admits: “Time is not on our side”.

“These types of events are going to happen with increasing frequency,” he said. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent.

Fast said all levels of government in Canada and the US were aware of the potential for catastrophic flooding in Abbotsford but were not taking action to prevent it.

“Bottom line, we all know what the risks are and should have seen it coming but nothing fundamental has been done about it.”

The Conservatives, Greens and NDP have all demanded urgent debate, which is supported by all sides.

At the beginning of last week, the atmospheric river dumped 300mm of rain down on parts of southern BC, which led to deadly landslides and washed out highways that killed four people and temporarily severed land links links the Vancouver area to the rest of Canada. Inland flooding also washed away levees, destroyed water treatment plants and forced thousands of people from their homes.

On Tuesday, two counties in Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency as a torrential downpour hit the province’s east coast, washing away roads and bridges.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the southwestern Channel-Port aux Basques town was completely cut off as rain washed away sections of the Trans-Canada Highway and the only side road leading in and out of town.

So far, Dale Beugin, vice president at the Canadian Climate Choice Institute, said attention has mainly been focused on cutting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the climate crisis from getting worse. The reality is, he said, the climate emergency is already here.

“Adaptation has been around for too long as the underdog brother of climate change policy,” he said. “And that’s starting to change now but I think we’re seeing that it has to change a lot faster, given the terrible disasters we’re seeing across the country.”

The federal government said in its speech to the throne on Tuesday that it will ensure its promised national adaptation strategy is completed by the end of next year, which aligns federal, provincial and cities together and the widespread effects that climate change is causing.

Numerous reports in recent years have identified what is most vulnerable in Canada to climate change, often pointing to infrastructure such as roads, bridges and power grids, the North, fisheries and health and happiness of individuals.

The Federation of Canadian Cities and Insurance Canada conducted an analysis in 2019 of the costs required to handle adaptation needs in Canadian cities and towns and concluded that at least US$5.3 billion from different governments every year.

It remains unclear how much money was spent, although BC NDP MP Richard Cannings estimates it to be less than a fifth.

The National Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund has been allocated approximately $3.4 billion to help provinces pay for adaptation projects over the next 10-12 years. There are other funds promised to improve forest firefighting and create better flood maps.

Confederation president Joanne Vanderheyden, mayor of the Ontario city of Strathroy-Caradoc, said during the election they asked all parties to commit an additional $2 billion to disaster relief funds over the next three years and at least at least $1 billion annually thereafter.

“It’s a number that we believe can be a start and then, you know, continue that number year after year,” she said.

Neither side has agreed to that particular claim, she said, but with images of devastation on both coasts, it has never been clearer.

“We can do this,” she said. “We need to move, that’s important, we need to do it now.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 24, 2021.


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