Crisis management

How can government more proactively respond to the vagaries of nature?

How can government more proactively respond to the vagaries of nature?

I’m beginning to believe that this is becoming the question of our time. As climate-change modelling predicted, nature is reacting to our use of the atmosphere as a dumping ground for greenhouse gases with increasingly catastrophic weather events and natural disasters.

Most news headlines are taken up now with these fires, floods, hurricanes, droughts, storm surges, and rising sea levels. Why can’t government be more proactive? Why is it that government is willing to spend massive amounts of money responding to catastrophic events but, all too often, won’t spend smaller amounts of money on measures that could either prevent or limit damage from those same predictable crises?

There’s a classic example of this “penny wise, pound foolish” approach to crisis management playing out in the Cariboo right now. One home has been lost and others threatened on the Cottonwood River, despite heroic efforts by the homeowners to work with government to take steps to protect their homes.

The owners even put up $39,000 each (some with second mortgages) to partner with government to have protective work done; work that engineers and hydrologists stated should protect their homes (the study was also paid for by the residents).

That work was not done, for reasons which I’m investigating more thoroughly, and residents are now faced with the prospect of losing their homes and the government is on the hook for costs associated with protecting roads and bridges and, possibly, compensating these residents for their loss. I could make the same argument about last year’s fire season.

Let’s hope we don’t see a B.C. version of Slave Lake as a result of this shortsightedness — we came close last year when the fire almost jumped into the industrial area of Williams Lake.

The worst case scenarios of climate change modeling appears to be our “new normal,” therefore politicians of all stripes must rethink crisis management and be more willing to invest in proactive and preventative measures than they have in the past.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.

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