Last week I had the opportunity to sit in on two wildfire debrief sessions with former Liberal MLA and Cabinet Minister George Abbott, who has been tasked by the NDP government to review how the provincial government plans for and handles emergency situations. Mr. Abbott and Chief Maureen Chapman are conducting a formal review of last year’s flood and forest fire events and must present an interim report to the provincial government in mid-March and a final report by the end of April; a very tight timeline.
The initial debriefing sessions were held with the Cariboo Regional District Board and with the City of Quesnel’s emergency management team along with a representative from our Wildlife Recovery Team. Public sessions will be held in February and we will get the word out as soon as we have the dates.
It was clear from the initial sessions with Mr. Abbott that he has a good grasp of the complexities of the issues he and Chief Chapman need to explore, condense and give government advice on. The essence of the challenge the review needs to focus on is that our provincial emergency planning and response system is built to deal with single, short term, and geographically localized events not the long duration, multi-event, simultaneous, and widely dispersed floods and fi res we experienced this summer and that are supposed to be our “new normal.”
Dealing with any emergency situation is complicated by many factors, not the least of which are the multiple agencies and jurisdictional authorities that are generally involved in the planning and response. Emergencies that occur over longer time frames and larger geographic areas simply magnify the complexities and I don’t envy Mr. Abbott and Chief Chapman their task of cutting through this complexity in order to give the government practical advice to improve our current system.
It seems to me that the number and complexity of the issues we are confronting is increasing.
Increasing property crime, the opioid crisis, insufficient mental health and addictions resources, and limited resources to quickly address social housing needs are all interrelated issues that Council is forced, by default, to try and play a leadership role in despite the fact that they fall squarely within the domain of the provincial and federal governments.
The upcoming legalization of Cannabis will only add to local government’s resource challenges,
An aging demographic, the need for more diverse housing options, increasing demands to create a more accessible community, and the need for more health care supports for seniors and people with more challenging health care needs are also predominantly within the provincial domain to address, but local governments find that they must pick up the responsibility to champion these issues as well, especially in rural communities.
Quesnel City Council is embracing these complicated issues and we have a number of initiatives underway to understand them better and attempt to address them. But, it would be very helpful when the provincial and federal governments download these complicated issues to local governments to champion they would also fl ow some additional financial resources our way so we could truly tackle them in a more timely and robust fashion.
Mayor Bob Simpson
Mayor and Council write Council News columns to provide residents information and updates regarding Council and City projects, initiatives, committees and business. This column is published in Quesnel Cariboo Observer on Wednesdays.