Province announces financial support as B.C. Liberals call for emergency debate on disaster response

·3 min read
A person paddles a kayak in floodwaters near a hotel in Abbotsford on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A person paddles a kayak in floodwaters near a hotel in Abbotsford on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

People whose homes, properties or businesses have been affected by this week's severe flooding are now eligible for financial assistance from the province.

In a statement issued Thursday, Emergency Management B.C. said Disaster Financial Assistance is available for homeowners, residential tenants, small business owners, farmers and charitable organizations who are unable to obtain insurance to cover disaster-related losses.

The financial assistance covers anyone living on Vancouver Island, southwest and central B.C., as well as all Indigenous communities and local governments that have infrastructure damage as a result of the recent flooding.

The deadline to apply for assistance is Feb. 12, 2022.

Emergency debate on disaster response

The B.C. Liberals called Thursday for an emergency debate on the government's response to the severe flooding that devastated much of the southern part of the province.

"There are some very serious questions that need to be answered about what went wrong in terms of the lack of warning, particularly to people and farmers out on Sumas Prairie," Mike de Jong, the B.C. Liberal MLA for Abbotsford West, told CBC's The Early Edition.

During question period, Opposition leader Shirley Bond asked Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth why residents were not given prior warning of the imminent danger that caused widespread flooding and landslides.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
Maggie MacPherson/CBC

"When British Columbians were getting swamped over the weekend ... the premier's response was disappointing," she said," as if his government had absolutely no idea what was happening in the province."

Farnworth said the province did "significant work" over the weekend when an unprecedented amount of rain poured into southern B.C. in just 48 hours.

"I can tell you that DriveBC was updated on a regular basis, notifications about streamflow advisories were provided to local communities, flood warnings were issued, and at the same time, crews were out dealing with potential trouble areas," he said.

Farnworth said as extreme events like this occur more frequently due to climate change the province will take what happened and learn from it.

Bond and other members of the Opposition party grilled the public safety minister on the lack of notice, asking why people in the U.S. had 48 hours more notice than farmers and residents on the Sumas Prairie.

"Washington state declared a severe weather state of emergency on Monday. British Columbia took an additional two days," said Todd Stone, the Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson.

"This government is failing when it comes to sharing critical information with British Columbians during an impending emergency."

He reminded the minister that the province is the only jurisdiction in B.C. that can send a mandatory warning via text through the Alert Ready system.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Alert Ready is a Canada-wide system that allows government officials in each province and territory to issue public safety alerts through major television and radio broadcasters, as well as compatible wireless devices.

Farnworth said the province is working on a co-ordinated system with local communities and first responders to make sure the Alert Ready system doesn't interfere with other local warning systems or cause unnecessary panic.

"We will be using, next spring and summer, the Alert Ready system starting in the central Interior but we are going to make sure it's done right."

He also said that the province is working closely with the retail industry to make sure that the goods and services will be available to those in need.

"In many parts of this province, transportation routes are not affected. From Kamloops, for example, the rail line operates all the way to the east, and trucking and transportation are doing everything they can to get the goods there," he said.

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