VICTORIA — B.C. is looking to help residents rebuild following historic floods and wildfires with its new budget.
The province has promised more than $2.1 billion to help people recover from the devastating floods and wildfires of last year and to build resilience for future disasters.
Approximately $1.5 billion of the new funding will be spread over the next three years to support ongoing response and recovery efforts. This includes $1.1 billion in contingencies to support those people, businesses and communities that have been impacted.
Budget 2022 also includes a one-time increase for costs under the Emergency Program Act, from $36 million to $436 million to support flood recovery costs. This funding will support ongoing disaster response and recovery activities, such as debris removal and cleanup, and dike repairs. Funding will also support programs such as Disaster Financial Assistance, which provides local governments, people, businesses and charitable organizations with assistance to recover.
The previously announced $5 billion in federal funding will also help the province offset the costs of the response and recovery efforts from the floods and other recent natural disasters in B.C.
Wildfire, emergency response and prevention
A total of $145 million over three years will go towards reinforcing B.C.’s emergency management and wildfire services. This includes building up the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round firefighting and risk mitigation workforce. This will allow both the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC to add capacity and equipment to do more prevention work.
A year-round wildfire service allows these public safety professionals to complete more fire mitigation work before and after the summer months, and support communities in their FireSmart initiatives.
Over the coming three years, an additional $98 million will fund wildfire prevention work and will help maintain road access to aid in future wildfire response. Budget 2022 also provides $90 million in community grants to complete FireSmart initiatives and fuel management activities.
Local emergency preparedness and mitigation
The Community Emergency Preparedness Fund will get a $110 million boost to support communities and First Nations with emergency preparedness and mitigation. According to the province, it has been a popular program with First Nations and local governments that has funded more than 960 community projects since its introduction in 2017.
Funding streams include evacuation route planning, structural flood mitigation, volunteer fire department equipment and training, Indigenous cultural safety training, flood risk assessments and emergency operations centre training and supports.
In addition to the above funding, available to both local governments and First Nations, an additional $10 million in funding is allocated to support the particular emergency preparedness and mitigation needs of First Nations communities, which the province stated are often disproportionately impacted by disasters.
Climate change preparedness
Budget 2022 will contribute $83 million to the Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy to help the province better prepare for the impacts of climate change. The strategy aims to invest in actions to improve knowledge of future climate impacts that will help increase the effectiveness of government investments.
The funding will allow the province to increase climate monitoring networks with new equipment and tools measuring streamflow, groundwater, snowpack and other data, support resiliency work with local and Indigenous governments, and develop an extreme heat response framework.
The province is also expanding the River Forecast Centre and floodplain mapping program. Floodplain mapping will help communities identify key dikes and priority investments.
Funding for the strategy will also continue the work generated through the Healthy Watersheds Initiative with a $30 million investment. B.C.’s streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands store carbon, absorb flooding and storm surges, supply drinking water, and provide critical habitat for fish and other species.