The plight of residents of the village of Lytton in British Columbia, which was nearly destroyed in a wildfire this summer, gained political attention Thursday in the provincial legislature.
Jackie Tegart, a liberal fellow at Fraser-Nicola, said the lives and livelihoods of communities, citizens and businesses devastated by the summer wildfires are kept unnecessarily on hold.
Prime Minister John Horgan’s promise to rebuild the community after last June’s wildfire has not materialized at this time, he said.
“He promised the people of Lytton that they would be whole again,” said Tegart, whose riding includes the village.
Instead, many residents have spent the past 99 days in hotels, Tegart said.
“Ninety-nine days of displacement. Ninety-nine days with no schedule, no way forward. Ninety-nine days and where is the support? Let’s take our people home. “
Canadian record temperatures in late June topped 49 ° C at Lytton. The fire destroyed much of the community in a matter of hours. Two people died.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The Transportation Safety Board joined the investigation into the cause after RCMP and the BC Wildfire Service said there was a possibility that a train could have started the fire.
Horgan said this summer after flying over damage from the Lytton fire that rebuilding the village could be a North American case study when it comes to climate change.
He said the province was ready to help build the “city of tomorrow.”
The prime minister said during the question period on Thursday that the private sector, the Fraser River Basin Board of Directors, municipal leaders and a special cabinet task force are working in Lytton to help with the recovery.
Opposition Liberals question the New Democrats’ responses to the recovery from the wildfires and heat wave. #Wild fires #Heat waves #BCPoli
“We are doing our best to bring the right people together,” Horgan said.
Tegart replied, “If you’re doing your best, my God, we’re in trouble.”
Liberals also criticized the government’s plans to help residents in the Mount Lake, Kelowna and Vernon areas who lost their homes to wildfires this summer, as well as ranchers hoping the government will replace destroyed cattle fences in Crown lands.
Jennifer Rice, the government’s parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness, said last week that British Columbia lost 343 homes this summer to wildfires.
Horgan also faced questions for the third day in a row in the legislature about his original comments warning of the late June heat wave in the province.
Acting Liberal Leader Shirley Bond said Horgan seemed more pleased with the government’s lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and less concerned about the dangers of the upcoming heat wave, which contributed to 569 heat-related deaths.
“It was those very populations that were at risk that the prime minister cruelly dismissed when he said, and I quote, ‘Deaths are part of life and there is a level of personal responsibility.’
Bond demanded Horgan accept the recommendations of a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch, an independent international watchdog organization, which asked the British Columbia government to appoint an independent review of the heat wave and its impact on the province.
The British Columbia government had previously commissioned a review in 2019 that warned of the dangers of a heat wave, it said.
“They were unprepared and hundreds of families lost loved ones as a result,” Bond said, referring to the provincial government. “Five hundred and seventy inhabitants of British Columbia died and they deserve the responsibility of this prime minister.”
Horgan told the legislature that at the time he made his comments, the scale of the threat to the province was just emerging.
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 7, 2021.