Feds will support B.C. wildfire efforts 'in every way possible': Goodale
Published Sunday, July 16, 2017 3:44PM PDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 16, 2017 4:42PM PDT
The federal government is ready to help British Columbia’s wildfire response and recovery efforts “in every way possible,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Sunday.
“We are responding to every request that British Columbia brings forward,” he told CTV News. “They’re doing a terrific job in very difficult circumstances. It’s the role of the Government of Canada to provide all of the assistance that they may request.”
So far, Goodale said the province has asked Ottawa for two things: aircraft to help fight the wildfire and personnel on the ground to help carry out evacuation orders.
According to the minister, about 155 Canadian Forces members are helping with emergency operations. Eight aircraft have also been deployed including Griffon and Chinook helicopters, surveillance aircraft from Transport Canada and at least one Hercules cargo jet.
“All of the assets of the Canadian Armed Forces are ready and available,” Goodale said. “If more is required, they will be made available to make sure we’re supporting British Columbia authorities in every way possible.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced a new ad hoc committee to help co-ordinate the federal government’s response to the wildfire crisis as well as communication with B.C. officials.
“In the middle of a disaster, you can run into circumstances where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” Goodale said. “We need to makes sure that the communication is seamless.”
The minister added that members are expected to meet for the first time this week, but the committee’s real work will begin once the fires are under control and people have returned home.
“The focus at the moment is on the immediate disaster relief—the emergency measures that are necessary,” he said. “The larger challenge, in the longer term, is how do you identify the things that need to be done to restore the economy, to restore the communities, to restore the infrastructure that’s been damaged…That’s where the cabinet committee will be very helpful.”
The province has not yet asked for any money, but will likely receive significant financial support, based on the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement (DFAA)—an agreement between the federal government and the provinces that sets out the formula by which Ottawa covers the cost of natural disasters.
Initial payments are made by the province, which then applies for a reimbursement up to 90 per cent depending on the total cost of disaster.
“That process is strong, it’s well tested, it has worked well over the years and the Government of Canada will make sure that every one of its financial commitments is honoured,” Goodale said.
The minister said he plans to visit wildfire-affected areas next weekend with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who has been in the province for several days.
It is unclear if Trudeau himself is planning a visit.
More than 160 wildfires are burning across B.C. Interior and Cariboo Region.
As many as 37,000 people have been forced out of their homes.