2011 Western Premiers’ Conference


Western Premiers call for a Canada-wide disaster mitigation program and
agricultural recovery program

YELLOWKNIFE (June 22, 2011) - Premiers strongly encouraged the federal government to work with all provinces and territories to quickly develop a new long-term Canada-wide disaster mitigation program. They also urged the federal government to consider supporting special compensation programming in light of the unique circumstances and magnitude of the 2011 floods and forest fires.

Severe natural disasters have significantly affected the lives and livelihoods of many families across Canada. Many have experienced unprecedented flooding in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec, and the communities of Slave Lake, Alberta has been devastated by wildfires.

Several First Nations communities also continue to experience flooding on a regular basis and are among the most vulnerable communities. Premiers encouraged the federal government to develop a long-term mitigation strategy to protect against severe and continued flooding in First Nation communities. This strategy should also address northern and aboriginal communities experiencing major impacts on critical infrastructure as a result of changes to the permafrost caused by climate change.

The same weather conditions responsible for ongoing flooding in parts of the Prairies are also severely impacting the agricultural sector and the entire rural economy. Millions of acres have been flooded or have gone unseeded and cattle producers may have to reduce their herds because of pasture damage and inadequate forage. Premiers directed their Ministers of Agriculture to work together and with their federal counterpart to prepare specific proposals for joint support programs to address these urgent concerns.

Premiers offered their profound thanks to the emergency service workers and volunteers who have worked to mitigate damage and secure communities and families across Western Canada. Premiers also highlighted that the federal government has been an important partner in the flood fight, and in dealing with the effects on communities from wildfires, by providing strong support through the Canadian military, when needed, and the national Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA).

Premiers discussed ongoing disaster prevention and relief efforts within their provinces, noting that recovery efforts are far from over. Premiers acknowledged the importance of existing positive collaboration between provinces and territories for preparing for and dealing with natural disasters, including the mutual sharing of expertise and aid during emergencies.

Manitoba will host a national meeting this fall of all key agencies involved in disaster management to review the flood and forest fire outlook for 2012 and identify areas where improved joint planning, preparation and coordination may be possible. Premiers encouraged the federal government to participate fully in this meeting.

Provinces and territories have gone to great lengths to prepare for and prevent disaster damage. Repairing and rebuilding natural disaster damage, especially year-after-year flooding damage, is far more costly than investing in preventative infrastructure. Provincial and territorial investments in mitigation efforts and disaster management have proven extremely valuable for protecting property and reducing damages. For example, in Manitoba, it is estimated that the total Red River Floodway investment of $1.1billion has prevented over $30 billion in claims under the DFAA. In British Columbia, it is estimated that every $1 million invested in wildfire prevention programs produces approximately $3.4 million in positive economic, social and ecological benefits.

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