On the first day of the new session of Parliament, some of Canada’s federal opposition parties are calling for an emergency debate to address the flooding in British Columbia, as another atmospheric river is expected to hit the province in the coming days. .
A letter dated November 21 addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and signed by Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole and the party caucus in BC calls for a “collaborative team of Canada” approach to assessing the damage and providing support to reconstruction. During a news conference Monday morning, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said the party would “present” a call for an emergency debate on the disaster.
Singh said the NDP’s focus will be on the broader issue of addressing the climate crisis, including “concrete steps to reduce our emissions,” as well as the “immediate need” to invest in improving infrastructure.
“Since this type of extreme weather is more common, we need to see investment from the federal government,” Singh said. “Real proactive investments to make communities more resilient, (and) to prepare for what is becoming more common.”
The Conservative Party letter does not ask for explicit steps to address the flood crisis specifically, or the climate crisis in general. Rather, it is a call to be included in decision making.
“Parliamentary collaboration is critical to helping rebuild the province, and the people of British Columbia deserve to see us resolutely support them during this difficult time,” said conservative environmental critic Dan Albas in a statement.
“The heroic work of first responders, civic workers and citizens has helped save lives and protect property, but the rebuilding effort will require significant federal support and long-term commitment,” he added.
The federal ministry of transportation said National Observer of Canada was working with provincial partners to restore the flow of goods across the country. Part of that effort is a supply chain working group launched on Saturday that includes federal and provincial departments, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Vancouver International Airport Authority, BC Trucking Association, CN Rail, CP Rail and others.
“The quality of our transportation infrastructure and the efficiency of our commercial corridors directly benefit the lives of Canadians. It is important to work together to determine the best way to ensure that Canada’s gateways remain strong, resilient and secure, ”Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement.
The damage was caused by an atmospheric river that dumped the equivalent of a month of rain in British Columbia early last week. The record rains, mixed with melting snow and forests damaged by wildfires, represented a cascading climate crisis that destroyed communities and claimed at least four lives. The weekend saw a weaker atmospheric river pouring 40 to 50 millimeters in some areas of the province, and on Monday Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) warned that another atmospheric river was expected to hit by the end of week and deliver another 40mm to 70mm. of rain, and potentially more than 100mm in some areas.
Lives have been lost, infrastructure has been destroyed, supply chains are breaking down, and another atmospheric river will arrive in British Columbia before the weekend. The opposition parties are calling for an emergency debate while Parliament opens a new session. #cdnpoli
“It is quite extraordinary to see so many … and now we are on a streak,” said ECCC meteorologist Armel Castellan during a news conference.
“At this point, we are preparing for what will end up being … a record drop in terms of overall precipitation figures for many communities along the central and southern coast,” he said, calling it a “parade of storms “. “
Castellan said that while no specific event is directly attributed to climate change, the most powerful and durable atmospheric rivers are “super consistent” with climate change forecasts, meaning the imperative to prepare is only growing.
ECCC is working on an atmospheric river categorization system similar to hurricane warnings to give people an idea of how devastating the weather could be, but that system will not be ready for the impending storm. It is not known what categorization last week’s storm would get, but with 200mm hitting some parts of the province, it is expected to rank at the higher end as Category 4 or 5.
A clearer alert system is one way to prepare for extreme weather, but as key pieces of infrastructure were washed away by landslides, there is an increasing emphasis on building climate resilience in supply chains. There is an immediate impact on the food and fuel supply in a crisis, but prolonged damage to road and rail infrastructure also has economic implications.
“We have been shown how fragile these supply chains are,” said Richard Cannings, emergency preparedness critic for the NDP.
“It might be easier to build some strength in some parts of those supply chains, and maybe more difficult in others, but I think it’s clear that we have to push ourselves to look ahead and see where we are in these – national supply chains. so that we don’t stop like this, ”he said.
There are different schools of thought on how to build resilience in supply chains. One way is to create redundancy in the system, such as having multiple roads to facilitate trucking if a section is closed. Another is to take pressure off the economic system that runs into bottlenecks when disaster strikes, moving away from long, globalized supply chains toward local production and consumption.
Advocacy group Dogwood’s director of energy and democracy Kai Nagata said last week’s atmospheric river hit unsustainable parts of British Columbia’s economy first and hardest, citing fossil fuel pipelines, long distance food supply chainsand road transport.
“We need to restore those services because our economy is not built to function without those things, and the people who immediately suffer are the most vulnerable,” he said.
“But in the long run, I think we have to take this seriously … the things that are most vulnerable to disruption from climate change are actually the aspects of the economy that we need to become less dependent on as quickly as possible.”
Using the example of electricity generation, Nagata said that local power generation offers more options when large power lines are destroyed by fires, ice storms or floods. In other words, instead of moving electricity from one province or state to another in search of the most economically efficient option that could be at risk during extreme weather conditions, it is possible to build more resilient power grids by focusing on local power generation. It is a concept that can be applied across the board, from energy to food production, to build resilient communities.
Supply chains are the connective tissue between economies. When stretched, these fragile business networks, increasingly relying on just-in-time delivery to avoid extended warehousing costs, can easily be broken.
“It really points to the vulnerability that we have when a one-day rain event can basically disrupt these supply chains for the entire country,” Cannings said.
The problem Nagata describes is how disruptions in one part of the economic system can spread and impact others when supply chains are stressed. In an era of climate crisis in which regions around the world will be increasingly affected, he questions the desirability of relying on such a system. For Nagata, the solution requires seismic changes in the way the economy works.
“Here we come to the dilemma of the first-time user problem and the balance between individual consumer choices and the big state-driven changes in our economy,” he said.
Nagata said that as it stands, “the entire economy is working against you” when it comes to making individual decisions that would help build resilience. As an example, locally sourced food can often cost more than what is available at the grocery store, he said.
“Are you going to punish your family by buying more expensive versions of the same stuff that come with a shorter supply chain?” he said.
Similarly, government rebates for home energy efficiency programs and electric vehicles favor individuals and families with disposable income to spend, he added. By focusing on the concerns of the upper middle class, governments are failing to respond to the needs of those most vulnerable to climate collapse, including migrant workers, people with disabilities and indigenous communities, Nagata said.
He said the federal government has a role to play during the climate emergency by setting price and market signals that would shift economies toward more resilient supply chains.
Additionally, with RCMP deployed to assist TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline construction through the land of Wetʼsuwetʼen during the flood crisis, Nagata says there cannot be genuine conversations about building climate resilience in our systems.
“The army has flown to fill sandbags, but the provincial police are playing cowboy in the Wetʼsuwetʼen territory, and so on until we get to the point where we no longer subsidize the expansion of these pipelines and this fossil fuel infrastructure. I think it will be difficult for British Columbia to have a serious conversation about building a more resilient economy, ”he said.
John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer