Want to figure out if BC was unprepared for November’s big storms? Turn on the TV.
Families inMerritt, Princeton, Abbotsford and several First Nations just need to look out the window.
That is, if they still have a window to look out.
Premier Horgan’s government has tried to claim the huge rains were one-of-a-kind. Unpredictable. He tried to do the same thing with the heat dome.
But the thing is, Horgan’s government knew this was coming.
Back in 2010, Jim Mattison knew there was a problem. At that time, he was a senior environment ministry official.
A recent investigation by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) dug up a report by Mattison. In the report, he said the River Forecast Centre needed at least 12 staff to provide effective warnings to communities who could get flooded out.
At that time, they had 6 staff.
But for more than a decade, BC governments chose to ignore warnings about the gaps in flood preparedness.
Horgan’s government had four years to act. They did nothing.
And it has had tragic consequences.
Now the residents of Merritt, Princeton, Abbotsford and several First Nations communities are paying the price for government inaction.
“There are still only five employees working directly on river forecasting to this day, managed by one other person who also has responsibility for flood safety,” said CCPA analyst Ben Parfitt in a statement.
“The earlier and more accurate those warnings are, the more effectively co-ordinated provincial and local responses can be as rivers approach flood stage.”
Following the release of the CCPA investigation, public safety minister Mike Farnworth was in full defensive mode.
At a news conference, he boasted about the River Forecast Centre new technologies.
He also denied that the centre was too slow to issue warnings as the Fraser, Tulameen, and Coldwater rivers overflowed their banks.
Mattison’s 10-year-old report also noted that Alberta’s Edmonton-based river forecast centre had a staff of 24. Mattison made 33 recommendations to upgrade the province’s flood response. They included hiring a meteorologist to work with weather experts at Environment and Climate Change Canada.
No doubt Horgan’s government will dust off these recommendations and announce a new flood-preparedness plan soon.
But as farmers in the Fraser Valley say, that’s like “closing the barn door after the cows got out.”
But, thanks to the Horgan government’s failures, many of these farmers no longer have barns. Or the 450 cows, 12,000 pigs, and 630,000 chickens that died in the recent floods.