Another year, another fire season. Another disaster season. Every time we turn on the television or open a web news page there it is. Fires out of control and raging everywhere. Millions of acres of forest going up in smoke and, unlike Cheech & Chong, no high as a result.
Our Prime Minister touching down for a photo op on his way to yet another international bun feed at taxpayer’s expense, somewhere in the Orient. Time to get out of Dodge again till things cool down. He is there ostensibly to visit with military personnel who are there to help fight the ongoing conflagration and likely glad hand them in front of the camera.
But, what of the heroic men and women who have been fighting to save their respective communities from the start? Is he going to drop buy and say; “Hi, vote for me”! From listening to the reports coming in, the local people have had nothing but trouble getting assistance in the face of government evacuation orders. As one lady put it, how do you go to a hotel with a flock of chickens or ducks?
What of our emergency Measures Minister, yes, you guessed it, Bill Blair once more in the spotlight with an emergency management background of clearing protesters and hauling police cars out of flooded TTC underpasses in Toronto the Good. As he says; “we are working with our partners…”. Isn’t that the line they all use. Do they ever tell you who their partners are? No. Just tell us what you have provided not what you intend to do.
Now it is hard to blame the politicians totally on this one. They have neglected or misunderstood this problem for many years now and seem to have been caught off guard by the severity of forest fires and floods more recently. Remember the disaster that was Fort McMurray, burnt to the ground. Or High River during the flooding. Just search for weapons, never mind the folks who are stranded!
Now all the blame can’t be placed on the plate of Trudeau and Blair. Our Federal Emergency Preparedness system is extensive and complex. Nor can the provinces be held totally responsible. However, does history not provide some lessons here? Politicians tend to react like this type of disaster has never befallen our great land before.
Yes, they have sent out all local fire fighters trained in this area. They have sent in the military to assist, once requested, if possible. They have even brought in fire fighters from outside jurisdictions as far away as the United States and Ontario. Sounds like sound rapid response and effective planning, no?
No, it isn’t. It is about time Canada looked at disaster response in a more serious way? Oh, we have great fire fighters when it comes to forest fires. Well trained and certainly motivated fire fighters for sure. They say we have something like seven hundred First Nations fire fighters active as well. These folks have been living close to the fire far too long and know a thing or two about fighting them. The current resources don’t seem to allow them to get ahead of the fire line. The water they can’t drink gets put on fires!
What we may literally need is a national fire/disaster response program, in addition to our Preparedness system, with not hundreds of trained people, but thousands of trained people from coast to coast. An organization that mirrors the military in look but with specific skill sets in disaster and fire response. Expensive? You bet it is, but so was Covid-19! Better get used to it.
Such an organization has to be properly funded federally, provincially and possibly locally and equipped with all the modern tools that such a response requires. Cities in high risk areas have to be upgraded in preparation as well. Urban, agricultural and remote contingency plans have to be developed that are fast and effective in order to save lives, both human and animal.
Perhaps new places to house and support evacuees is needed instead of sending them to hotels, motels and trailer parks to wait it out. Certainly a national decision making body and communications network needs to be fine tuned to avoid unnecessary delays and to certainly pay attention to local community knowledge and needs as a first priority.
Perhaps Mr. Blair should again look at other international jurisdictions, as he cherry picked with respect to gun control, to see what other countries are doing to fight these types of disaster. Australia would be a good place to start, eh, Minister!