The B.C. government’s 2022 budget earmarks $2.1 billion to help communities recover from last year’s disastrous floods and prepare for more climate-related crises to come.
That includes funding for improved heat wave predictions, a more proactive approach to wildfire seasons, and “state-of-the-art” climate monitoring stations along the province’s rivers and shorelines, Finance Minister Selina Robinson said Tuesday.
“While the fight against climate change continues, recent disasters show that we must strengthen our defences at home,” Robinson said during her budget speech from the B.C. legislature.
“We know that even the gradual effects of a changing climate can have significant implications. From the kind of food we grow to the design of our sewers and roads, we must be prepared.”
The Insurance Bureau of Canada applauded the investments as an important step in adapting to the realities of climate change – but critics noted the government is spending less than half as much on tackling the root causes of warming temperatures.
The Wilderness Committee also accused the province of “greenwashing” the fracking industry with the $310 million allocated to supporting decarbonisation efforts.
“We should be spending at least as much to fight climate change as we are dealing with its impacts,” Wilderness Committee climate campaigner Peter McCartney said in a statement. “With all the necessary measures to reduce carbon pollution, greenwashing the gas industry should not be this government’s top priority.”
HOW THE $2.1 BILLION IS BEING SPENT
The bulk of B.C.’s disaster funding is going towards recovery costs from November’s devastating storms, including $400 million to be spent throughout the 2022-23 fiscal year.
With combined funding from the provincial and federal governments, Robinson promised the “largest financial recovery package ever for B.C. farmers is on the way.”
Another $1.1 billion is being set aside for additional recovery expenses over the next three years.
Since the flooding, some Fraser Valley residents have reported feeling “abandoned” as they await promised help from the province’s disaster relief program. At the end of January, Emergency Management B.C. told CTV News that while claims “could take longer to process than in the past” due to the influx of applications, more staffing and a streamlined process were on the way.
The average processing time from application to final payment was said to be about five weeks.
Robinson also touted a new extreme heat response framework that will “better predict where and when heat waves will hit,” while guiding the province’s efforts to help vulnerable residents.
Some $145 million in funding will also be used to boost staffing at Emergency Management B.C. and the B.C. Wildfire Service, both of which were “unwavering” in their efforts to help the province deal with last year’s catastrophes, Robinson said.
The B.C. Wildfire Service will be shifted to a year-round operation, with a workforce partially focused on prevention and mitigation strategies.
The province is also expanding the River Forecast Centre and provincial floodplain mapping program, and spending $83 million to create a new Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Fund to support communities and First Nations with dike-building and other risk-reduction measures.
“It means strengthening our partnership with local governments and Indigenous communities to work together to understand, monitor, manage and reduce climate risks,” Robinson said.
“We can and we will ensure that we are ready to protect people.”
With files from The Canadian Press