Response from BC Public Safety Minister Farnworth:
Dear Members of Parliament:
Thank you for copying me on your letter of January 25, 2021, addressed to the Honourable Bill Blair, federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, concerning funding requests from the City of Abbotsford.
I have chosen to reply to your letter to provide the Province’s perspective on this topic. I trust you will see that we are taking a collective response to this natural event and are committed to working together across all levels of government.
The Emergency Management BC (EMBC) South West office received communications from the City of Abbotsford regarding erosion of the Matsqui Dike on August 10, 2020, in the form of an Expenditure Authorization Form (EAF). EMBC staff were then required to verify both the damage to the dyke that was occurring, and whether repairs to that damage would qualify for funding under the Emergency Program Act (EPA). This EAF was denied after it was determined there was no imminent risk to human life or critical infrastructure a specific requirement under the EPA. EMBC received an amendment to the above EAF on October 20, 2020 and engaged the subject matter experts at the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development (FLNRORD) for expert opinion.
When FLNRORD flood assessors determine mitigation urgency, they are looking for “emergency” threats to flood infrastructure. While observed erosion may have been alarming to the City of Abbotsford, it did not necessitate immediate action. There was no evidence of an imminent emergency, with only localized erosion around one particular site. With this understanding and after careful review, the Flood Assessment team at FLNRORD has supported EMBC’s determination that the expenditure request does not qualify for response cost reimbursement.
I appreciate being made aware of your concerns; however, EMBC’s decision to decline the City of Abbotsford’s EAF for reimbursement of expenses is consistent with existing provincial statutes and past determinations.
While this expenditure was not eligible for funding under the EPA, EMBC does continues to work with other federal, provincial, and non-governmental agencies to develop and deliver alternative mitigation funding programs, and the City of Abbotsford is encouraged to review some of the other financial funding streams available to support mitigation works, which are identified in the following link: www.gov.bc.ca/disastermitigationfunding
As I am sure you are now aware, the Province has approved $8.5m in funding to Abbotsford, Vancouver, Squamish, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Lil’wat Nation, and Pemberton. Through the structural flood mitigation stream of the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund, these communities are now provided with direct funding support for flood mitigation projects. Abbotsford in particular was approved for $750,000 to investigate and repair a sinkhole at a section of the Matsqui Dyke near the JAMES Wastewater Treatment Plant, separate from what was requested in the aforementioned EAF. You can find a news release with additional detail at the following link: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021PSSG0014-000257
The Province is committed to working with our communities to support disaster mitigation efforts in line with the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which BC adopted in 2018. Mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery are the four pillars of emergency management, and it is critical that we do all that we can to maintain the strength of each pillar for the well-being of all British Columbians.
We will continue to strive to improve emergency management throughout the province, such as through the modernization of the Emergency Program Act, which is an ongoing effort in collaboration with all communities. With this modernization, we aim to make more preventative supports available while bolstering readiness for emergencies.
Thank you again for taking the time to write on behalf of the City of Abbotsford and its residents.
Minister of Public Safety
and Solicitor General
pc: The Honourable Bill Blair, PC, MP
Bruce Banman, MLA Abbotsford South
Michael de Jong, MLA Abbotsford West
Pam Alexis, MLA Abbotsford—Mission
Mayor and Council, City of Abbotsford
Peter Sparanese, City Manager, City of Abbotsford
Rob Isaac, General Manager, Engineering and Regional Utilities