John Ivison: The Liberals got so focused on carbon taxes that they missed the flood coming through the back door

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For a Liberal government that has made climate change one of its top priorities, its disaster mitigation policies have been plainly negligent

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Justin Trudeau saw first-hand the impact of the atmospheric river that broke records for precipitation in British Columbia, leaving dykes ruptured, homes submerged, highways swept away and livestock drowned.

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Another storm of thunderstorms is forecast for this weekend. “We will see what God has in store for us,” said one Global TV resident stoically.

But as painful as the flooding was, equally shocking was the province’s lack of preparedness for the extreme weather conditions.

Ed Fast, MP for Abbotsford, one of the worst affected cities, said all levels of government had been aware of the potential for flooding for years but had failed to act. “We should have seen it coming, but nothing substantial was ever done about it,” he said.

As Minister of the Harper government, Fast bears his share of the responsibility for this inertia.

But the Liberals have been in power for six years, and for a government that has made climate change one of its top priorities, its disaster mitigation policies have been plainly negligent.

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This week’s Throne Speech committed the Liberals to developing Canada’s first-ever national adaptation strategy, prompting a question that calls for an answer: why was such a strategy not commissioned after the fire. Fort McMurray in 2016 or the spring flooding in Ontario and Quebec in 2017?

  1. Flood waters are seen a week after torrential rains hit British Columbia, triggering landslides and flooding, closing highways, in Abbottsford, B.C.

    Terence Corcoran: The real link between floods and climate

  2. A utility crew is working a day after heavy rains flooded the southern interior city of Princeton, B.C. on November 16.

    Terry Glavin: Climate Change Platitudes Won’t Help BC Flood Victims

What is evident is that the Liberal government has focused almost entirely on the politically virtuous fight to cut emissions, to the detriment of less sexy mitigation of the ramifications of climate change.

Resilience has fallen victim to ideology. The country has been fractured by debates over carbon pricing, while the much less controversial issue of flood and fire preparedness has been overlooked.

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Take the government’s December 2020 climate plan update, which allocated $ 2.6 billion over seven years to make homes more energy efficient, but ignored the issue of flood protection.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada strongly insisted that part of the money be spent on a flood resilience grant – for sump pumps, window wells, etc.

However, then Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson did not want to dilute efforts to reduce emissions.

The Insurance Bureau called the resulting strategy a “half-plan”, arguing that it did little to protect Canadians from floods, fires, windstorms and hail. .

With 2021 set to be the most expensive year on record for insured damage (surpassing 2016’s $ 5.2 billion), it is in the industry’s best interest to ask Ottawa to do more. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

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When then Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna asked for money for a disaster mitigation fund, she received $ 1.4 billion over 12 years, a fraction of what she had asked. (The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates that the country should spend $ 5.3 billion per year on adapted infrastructure.)

Late, the government changed course.

A damning new report from Environment Commissioner Jerry DeMarco has declared Canada the worst country in the G7 since the Paris Agreement when it comes to reducing emissions. But he also condemned the government’s record on climate resilience, pointing out that 10% of households are at risk of flooding. He said the Liberals should centralize responsibility for adaptation and other functions of the Department of the Environment at the Privy Council Office and Finance Canada. It looks like changes will take place now, along with other Liberal campaign pledges, like funding home upgrades to protect them from extreme weather conditions, developing flood maps and creating a national flood insurance program for high risk homeowners. A flood insurance task force was established in 2020 by then Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and is expected to report in May.

A more serious approach to adaptation is long overdue.

When it comes to global emissions, Canada should meet its international commitments, but it cannot control the amount of greenhouse gases released by China and others.

However, it can do more to help Canadians protect themselves from severe weather depredation.

It’s a shame that it took Old Testament-style rain tumults to do away with the misplaced belief that adaptation is a distraction to achieve net zero emissions.

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