How the next disaster could receive less support

As many people are aware, emergency preparedness is the most effective way to limit loss of life and property damage when a disaster strikes.  Despite that the Conservatives are cutting funding that helped train local volunteers, fund critical emergency preparedness infrastructure, and even urban search and rescue training for which Canada has acquired a world class reputation.  Naturally, these cuts weren’t the stuff of splashy announcements, but were buried as most Canadians focussed on other issues.

This happened last spring as most of Canada was seized by big ticket items that were under the chopping block in the Conservative’s omnibus budget.   At that time two significant pieces of emergency preparedness were declared “beyond the government`s core business areas.”   They were funding for the Emergency Management College in Ottawa and grant funding under the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP).

These could be described as stealth cuts that were announced by an assistant deputy minister in an executive memo.  The effects will certainly be seen over time, but the collapse of the roof at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake illustrates how much communities have come to rely on federal money to augment local and provincial emergency preparedness budgets.

The Emergency Management College in Ottawa was the only institution providing this kind of training at the national level.  The decision to cut the funding altogether could result in a lack of training for emergency preparedness staff and volunteers at the provincial and municipal level.  Many small communities across Canada relied on this college for their core emergency response training and, as recently as September of 2010, there was a six month waiting list for its courses.  Of note, it is the only institution providing this kind of training at the national level.

The end of grant funding under the JEPP marks the end of money earmarked for training local volunteers, funds for training in urban search and rescue, and funds for critical emergency preparedness infrastructure.  It downloads all the costs of emergency planning onto provinces and municipalities.

These are examples of reckless cuts by the Conservative government; cuts that ultimately threaten public safety.  Program delivery is being shut off with little consideration of what will happen in the future.  Completely gutting all resources for emergency preparedness is short sighted and will have significant impacts, especially on small and remote municipalities who depended on these programs.  Small communities may need to consider raising taxes in order to provide any type of emergency services.  These cuts show the unwillingness of the Conservative government to cooperate with the provinces and municipalities to help ensure a safer and more secure Canada.