The House of Commons held an emergency debate Wednesday night on the devastating flooding in British Columbia amid increased attention to how ill-prepared the country is for the effects of a changing climate.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took advantage of the debate to reassure British Columbia people once again that the federal government, which has already deployed more than 500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces, will be there to support them and help them rebuild from the floods. and deadly landslides.
But he also took the opportunity to underscore the need for aggressive action to combat climate change.
“We know that this is not an isolated case,” he told the House.
Trudeau noted that British Columbia suffered devastating wildfires and record extreme temperatures this summer and that Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador are experiencing their own flooding due to heavy rains.
“If the last year has shown us anything, it is that the impacts of climate change are here earlier than expected and are devastating,” Trudeau said.
He pledged to put “the full power of government and the full force of our commitment behind real and meaningful climate action,” including measures to reduce carbon emissions and a national adaptation strategy.
While his government has already invested “record amounts” of money to help build more resilient infrastructure, Trudeau promised to increase funding for municipalities through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair repeatedly emphasized that preventing similar climate-induced disasters in the future will mean “significant new investments.”
Vancouver Island Green MP Elizabeth May said her husband’s farm is currently hosting “climate refugees” for the second time this year. The world, he said, is now on track to shoot “well beyond” the goal of keeping global warming to no more than 1.5 ° C because no country, including Canada, is doing what is needed.
Parliamentarians hold an emergency debate on #BC #floods, climate change. #CDNPoli
“It’s not about bad weather. It’s about whether human civilization can survive,” he told the Commons. “No subject could be more fascinating, the stakes could not be higher.”
Among other things, May said the federal government should cancel the TransMountain pipeline expansion project and put people to work to rebuild communities affected by extreme weather and the infrastructure needed to prevent future devastation.
Conservative MP Ed Fast, whose Abbotsford leadership is in the heart of BC’s flooded region, preferred to focus more on the immediate disaster and the needs of those affected. But he also acknowledged: “Time is not on our side.”
“These types of events will occur with increasing regularity. The effects of a changing climate are increasingly evident,” he said.
Fast said all levels of government in Canada and the United States were aware of the potential for devastating floods in Abbotsford, but did not act to prevent them.
“In short, we all knew what the risks were and we should have seen it coming, but nothing substantial was ever done about it.”
The Conservatives, the Greens and the NDP had called for the emergency debate, which was supported by all parties.
The atmospheric river, which dropped 300mm of rain in parts of southern British Columbia early last week, triggered deadly landslides and washed away highways that killed four people and temporarily cut off land links to the Vancouver area of the rest of Canada. Land floods also washed away levees, destroyed water treatment plants and forced thousands of people from their homes.
On Tuesday, two Nova Scotia counties declared a state of emergency when a storm hit the east coast of the province, washing away roads and bridges.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the southwestern town of Channel-Port aux Basques was completely cut off by road when rain washed away parts of the Trans-Canada Highway and the only other minor highway entering and leaving the city.
So far, Dale Beugin, vice president of the Canadian Institute for Climate Options, said the focus has been primarily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the climate crisis from worsening. The fact is, he said, that the climate emergency is already here.
“Adaptation has spent too long as a poor cousin of climate change policy,” he said. “And that is starting to change now, but I think we are seeing that it has to change much faster, given the horrible disasters that we are seeing across the country.”
The federal government said in Tuesday’s throne speech that it will ensure that the promised national adaptation strategy is finalized by the end of next year, in an attempt to tie together federal, provincial and municipal plans, and the widespread impacts it is having. climate change.
Multiple reports in recent years have identified what is most vulnerable in Canada to climate change, generally targeting infrastructure such as roads, bridges and power grids, the north, fisheries, and people’s health and well-being.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Insurance Bureau conducted an analysis in 2019 of what it would cost to manage adaptation needs in Canadian cities and towns and concluded that at least $ 5.3 billion is needed from various governments each year.
It’s unclear how much is being spent now, though BC NDP MP Richard Cannings estimates it’s less than a fifth of that.
The national disaster mitigation and adaptation fund has received around $ 3.4 billion to help provinces pay for adaptation projects over the next 10 to 12 years. Other funds have been pledged to improve wildfire fighting capabilities and produce better flood maps.
Federation President Joanne Vanderheyden, Mayor of Strathroy-Caradoc Township in Ontario, said that during the election she asked all parties to commit another $ 2 billion to the disaster mitigation fund over the next three years, and at least $ 1 billion annually after that.
“That’s the number that we think can be a start and then, you know, add it every year,” he said.
Neither party agreed to that specific question, he said, but with the devastating images on both coasts, it has never been clearer than is necessary.
“We can do this,” he said. “We have to get moving, it is essential, we have to do it now.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on November 24, 2021.