Program cancellation means vulnerable communities, regional district hears

  • Jul. 27, 2012 5:00 p.m.

Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district directors are criticizing the federal government’s decision to cancel a program that funded emergency preparedness projects, saying it will leave small communities vulnerable.The Joint Emergency Preparedness Program has helped pay for emergency training and equipment, like Sandspit’s recently-purchased Jaws of Life. The federal government eliminated the program in its spring budget.A letter from Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews, explaining that the federal government needs to reduce its deficit and that the program has achieved its goal of increasing local emergency preparedness, provoked a strong response at the regional district’s monthly meeting held Friday (July 20) in Port Clements.”Is this all part of how they’re downloading the bullshit onto us?” asked Area C director Karl Bergman. “I feel like we’ve been scammed by the Minister of Public Safety… I think it’s crap the way they’re handling this, just my opinion.”Moresby Island director Evan Putterill said the decision will simply shift the burden of paying for emergency preparedness to taxpayers in small communities, who can least afford it. Mr. Putterill also suggested that the regional district ask Mr. Toews to provide more information about exactly how he came to the conclusion that communities are now prepared for emergencies and don’t need any more help. “In most of our communities, we’re probably less prepared because have less people, less resources,” Mr. Bergman said.Directors voted to discuss the issue with provincial ministers at the Union of BC Municipalities conference in September and to write Mr. Toews requesting a detailed analysis about the state of emergency preparedness in north coast communities.A couple of recent decisions by the provincial government also caught the attention of the directors. The board voted to ask the province to put a moratorium on its plans to privatize the liquor distribution system after reading several pages of information from the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union. The union said the privatization decision was made without public consultation and would lead to reduced government revenues and higher prices, and several directors agreed.”I believe that these assets should remain in public hands… and not be sold,” said Area A director Des Nobels. “I don’t believe this is in the best interest of BC citizens.”Directors were also concerned about how the province will this year require most municipalities and regional districts to purchase carbon offsets through the Pacific Carbon Trust so that they can become “carbon neutral”. Municipalities across BC are raising concerns about the carbon scheme, saying it’s unfair to force local governments to pay money into a fund that ends up being distributed mainly to big corporations that undertake energy-saving projects.”It’s a very odd way of going about things,” Mr. Nobels said.Mr. Bergman was not as diplomatic. “It’s a huge scam by the province,” he said. “They should blow it out their ass.”Mr. Bergman said that small communities on the mainland north coast recently gave up significant timber harvesting opportunities, which could be considered a major positive move on the carbon side, but will still be expected to put money into the carbon scheme.Directors ended up deciding to talk more about the issue at the UBCM conference in September. Several other communities have already put the carbon plan on the agenda.

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