Bill Blair, federal minister of Emergency Preparedness, visited Princeton last Wednesday, Feb.22, to tour the town’s flood damaged areas and observe recovery efforts.
While there was no new funding announcement attached to Blair’s appearance, he said the visit was important to “look at the damages (you) face and I need to have a better understanding of how we can help and what we can do.”
Blair, along with Mayor Spencer Coyne and several town managers, looked over the new well sites, Memorial Park, Fenchurch Avenue, the temporary housing units in the Industrial Park, and visited with local Ground Search and Rescue volunteers.
Coyne said he was grateful for the attention.
“Let’s be honest, this is not something that Princeton can handle by itself,” Coyne told the Spotlight.
“We are doing a good job, but we do need that support from senior levels of government.
“The province has been very proactive in assisting us when we need assistance.
“I brought up with the minister that there needs to be a federal program in place in massive emergency situations like this, and I think that my messaging has been clear since day one that this has got to be a team effort.”
The federal government has committed to $5 billion of flood relief for B.C., which is allocated and administered by the province.
Ottawa is also ultimately responsible for the terms of the Disaster Financial Assistance program, which provides funding to individuals and communities impacted by emergencies, paying in some cases up to 90 per cent of recovery.
Coyne said there are problems with the program, for example who qualifies and why, and Blair agreed improvements could be made.
He formed a review panel to make recommendations about how to improve the DFA, and said one outcome was that federal dollars were moved much more quickly to the province following the floods, than after past events.
At the same time, he added, the federal government “is working hard on a national Flood Insurance Plan. The vast majority of people in this country don’t have flood insurance and they can’t get it.”
That plan will necessarily “require that the federal government will underwrite some of that risk.”
The crippling costs of recovery apply mostly to infrastructure.
Blair said it is important that money is spent smartly, and investments are made in new infrastructure that is improved and better able to withstand future climate-related events for “disaster risk reduction.”
Communities also need to prioritize, he said, and in Princeton’s case water is obviously a situation of “urgency.”
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