Devastation in Alberta
It's been over a week since the Fort McMurray wildfire began and still the city of over 80,000 remains evacuated. The exact cause and total damage to the city has yet to be formally announced but it's expected that residents will be returning to a city completely destroyed by fire. However, it will not be from a lack of trying as emergency officials from around the country have been involved in the fierce battle against mother nature. Recent reports indicate that as many as 600 or more firefighters from the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and New Brunswick are on the ground fighting the wildfire. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, the fire remains completely out of control and is now pushing east towards Saskatchewan.
A Surprising Offer
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley spoke of the overwhelming support Alberta has received from across the country in response to the fire. Over $30M has been donated so far to the relief efforts with a large portion coming from personal donations and Canadian companies. Other donations and offers of assistance have also been pouring in from around the globe including a surprising offer from Russia. The Russian minister of emergency measures, Vladimir Puchkov, has offered to send massive water bombers from Russia to help with the ongoing fire battle. As of Sunday, the Canadian government had not formally responded to the offer but acknowledged it was studying if such support would be needed. The offer comes at a time when Canada and Russia have a somewhat uncomfortable and tense relationship as a result of Russia's annexation of Crimea.
While the feds pondered the offer from Russia this week, they were also assisting with the ongoing situation in Alberta. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has been providing nearly daily updates on the situation and has promised the full support of the federal government. When asked if the government was considering deploying the military to assist Goodale declined to firmly say no but said that such a large fire would be best fought by professionals in the field rather than army personnel. However, he also noted that the air force has been providing assistance for a number of days already and continues to deliver aid to remote communities cut off by the fire.
Meanwhile the federal government and Alberta government have both agreed to match donations made by Canadians which, as mentioned, have so far exceeded $30M. The provincial government has also announced immediate payments of $1,250 for every adult and $500 for every dependant who has been evacuated so that they may buy any urgent supplies. Premier Notley also made a statement aimed at the residents of Fort Mac saying: “Trust us that we have your back, that we will be there for you and support you along the way.”
As with most domestic situation, there has been some criticism of the government's response to the fire. One of the biggest criticisms is that the government is not spending enough money in response to the disaster despite spending much more on international issues recently (such as the refugee crisis). What should be remembered is that homeowner insurance typically covers the loss of property as well as temporary living expenses incurred by an event such as the Alberta fire. It is also important to note that it's very common for governments to announce a donation matching program since such campaigns have shown to generate more public donations than a one-time government donation. It can also be expected that both the federal and provincial governments will be spending much larger sums of money on recovery efforts once the fire has been dealt with (not to mention the costs associated with fighting the fire).
Another criticism has been that the Alberta government did not announce a state of emergency earlier than it did. This type of criticism is often heard during domestic emergency situations but rarely requires much concern. In an event such as the one occurring in Fort McMurray, the declaration of a state of emergency has little real effect on the actual fighting of the fire. Had a state of emergency been declared sooner, it is highly unlikely the outcome would have been much different since the declaration pertains more to governmental procedure and legal action than it does to directly fighting the fire.
Does this mean the government did everything right? Absolutely not. Both the federal and provincial governments will almost certainly evaluate their response to the fire and make recommendations on how to respond better in the future. Such a review took place after the devastating fire that destroyed the community of Slave Lake in 2011 and has likely played a useful role in how the government and emergency services are currently responding to Fort McMurray.
In Other News...
Christy Clark is Not a Trump Fan
The Premier of BC, Christy Clark, has spoken out against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Clark attacked Trump in a statement where she said "It's not helpful when down in the States there are serious presidential candidates who are talking about building a wall between Canada and the United States. Trade barriers are just another kind of wall." She went on to say that no American president has ever been remembered as "great" because he built walls and suggested that the trade relationship between Canada and the USA could become poisonous. In referencing a wall, Clark was referring to Trump's stance against international trade which could spell bad news for BC (a province which relies heavily on international trade) should Trump become president. Unfortunately, in recent weeks the 'likely' Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has also expressed a disinterest in international trade which puts BC between a rock and Donald Trump's walls.
The PQ is Leaderless
After less than a year as leader of the Parti Québécois, Pierre Karl Péladeau announced his resignation of not just his leadership role but also his position as a Member of the National Assembly (same as an MLA in english Canada). Péladeau, a wealthy businessman, had only just entered politics in 2014 but gained widespread attention after promising to make Quebec a country. He was subsequently elected as leader of the party in 2015 but has said that due to family reasons he must now leave politics. The announcement came as quite a shock to party supporters despite knowing their leader was going through some personal family issues. - Just last August Péladeau married a popular Quebec television producer only to announce just five months later that they were separating. - The unexpected departure is yet another blow to the PQ who have suffered greatly in recent elections as support for Quebec separation from Canada decreases. The PQ hope to have a new leader elected by mid-October.
Thanks for reading.