The federal government defended their response to local wildfires in Question Period last week, as an NDP MP from a neighbouring riding demanded the Liberals commit to recovery efforts.
Ralph Goodale, the Minister for Public Safety, said the federal government has made sure resources are available to BC and Indigenous communities, made a major contribution to the Red Cross and established a special committee of cabinet to engage all federal assets in recovery efforts.
Goodale was responding to Richard Cannings, the MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay, who asked if Prime Minister Justin Trudueau would commit to full financial assistance to communities devastated by wildfire.
Seated beside Cannings during his question was Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski, who shares his colleague’s concerns for federal assistance to wildfire relief.
Stetski said the Cariboo and Okanagan regions were ravaged by wildfire and received quite a bit of media attention, however, the southeastern portion of BC was also recently hit hard by wildfire events.
A few weeks ago, Stetski said he put local emergency personnel in touch with representatives from the federal government to establish a relationship.
“The way that works, the federal government provides resources but only on the request of the provincial government,” he said, “so it has to go from a local request, to the province, and then to the federal government.
“But I did want to make sure there was a relationship and direct contact, if needed, between our people locally and the federal government as well.”
Outside of immediate relief, Stetski says there needs to be a long-term plan going forward.
“There was the firefighting itself, there was making sure evacuees were safe and that they were cared for, but longer term, I think there’s a need for federal government involvement with fireproofing our communities,” he said, “potentially looking at the economic impacts on some communities where they have lost annual allowable cut.
“So it’s a long-term commitment that I’m looking for and I think we’re looking for from the federal government.
“But absolutely, part of that needs to be providing funding and cooperation with provinces, in the case of British Columbia, to do a much better job of fireproofing our communities because climate change is not going away, hot dry summers are going to be with us for a while and we need to be prepared for the future.”