An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE REPORT on last year’s floods and wildfires has been released, right in the middle of a brand new flood season and on the brink of a new wildfire season that might rival 2017.
Of the 108 recommendations in the report — called Addressing the New Normal — by former Health Minister George Abbot and hereditary Chief Maureen Chapman, only 19 coincide with actions taken since last year. That means there’s a lot of work to do.
It’s the first major examination of disaster response in B.C. since the Filmon report on wildfires in 2003. Abbott and Chapman conclude that B.C. has made “disappointingly little progress” on enhancing community safety since then.
They conclude there’s been a lot of planning but not nearly enough action. The excuse they heard was that local governments are too bogged down with spending on infrastructure to direct money toward flood and fire prevention.
Clearly, the report shows, something has to change. Communities have to be put in priority according to their degree of risk from wildfire, renewed emphasis put on FireSmart prevention, greater co-ordination among stakeholders implemented, more investment made in technology and a holistic approach to disaster management developed.
The report puts special emphasis on prescribed burns as a prevention tool, an interesting recommendation given the controversy around that tactic during last year’s wildfires.
As Abbot and Chapman describe the situation, we’re in a race against climate change. A fascinating conclusion in the report is that the 2008 mountain pine beetle infestation — a somewhat fading memory now — was “in many ways at the heart of the 2017 wildfires.”
It’s too late to implement many of the recommendations in the report for this year’s spring and quickly approaching summer, and by the time next year comes around the report might well need updating.
But it’s clear the situation with respect to both fire and flood is urgent and requires a re-assessment of our priorities. As Abbott and Chapman conclude, we can either spend a lot of money now, or a lot more later.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.