New EDMA from Province prompts letter of ‘concern’ from RDCK

The regional district board of directors has expressed a ‘deepening concern’ over the Province’s new Emergency and Disaster Management Act, prompting the RDCK to take action.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) board of directors approved staff sending a second letter to the Premier David Eby, Bowinn Ma, the minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, and George Heyman, the minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy — at its Feb. 15 meeting — with concerns about the Emergency and Disaster Management Act (EDMA) and related regulation for local authorities.

The letter included “concerns over funding and the cost to the taxpayer, as well as addressing residents’ concerns,” despite the acknowledgement that EDMA brings important changes to emergency management in B.C. The letter will also be copied to all 27 regional districts, municipalities in the RDCK, and MLAs for the RDCK.

In November 2023, the EDMA was adopted by the Province, replacing the Emergency Program Act. As part of the phased implementation, the Province was seeking feedback from local governments.

Into the EDMA

The EDMA has several policy shifts informed by best practices in emergency management, partner engagement and co-development with First Nations.

While the Emergency Program Act focused primarily on emergency response, the EDMA includes the four phases of emergency management — preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery — and clarifies what is required from identified actors in each phase.

Under the existing regulations, local authorities must:

• prepare local emergency plans that reflect potential emergencies and disasters that may affect any or all of an area within their jurisdiction;

• include an assessment of the relative risk that a given type of emergency will occur, along with its potential impact on people and property; and

• establish priorities for restoring essential services provided by the local authority.

Source: RDCK board agenda Feb. 15

Speaking of changes

The new legislation contains changes for local authorities, including:

• clear requirements for risk assessments, emergency management plans and business continuity plans;

• a framework for multijurisdictional emergency management organizations (MJEMOs); and

• requirements to consult and cooperate with Indigenous governing bodies.

The new legislation will require municipalities, regional districts, critical infrastructure owners, and public sector agencies to have business continuity plans. Plans will need to describe ways of ensuring the continued delivery of services during an emergency.

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily