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Premier Horgan extends wildfire state of emergency by two weeks

Click to play video 'Priorities outlined at first BC NPD government cabinet meeting' Priorities outlined at first BC NPD government cabinet meeting
Premier John Horgan sitting down with his cabinet ministers this morning in Victoria - to outline their priorities as a government. Keith Baldrey has the details – Jul 19, 2017

In his first act as premier, John Horgan is extending the state of emergency brought on by the B.C. wildfires by two weeks.

The emergency declaration was initially due to expire at midnight on July 21.

Speaking to reporters in the legislature rose garden, Horgan said the government is also increasing assistance payments to people who have been affected by the wildfires.

READ MORE: John Horgan sworn-in as B.C. premier, unveils new cabinet

Earlier this month the province established a $100-million fund, which included a $600 assistance payment to every household evacuated.

Horgan said the province will now repeat those payments to people in need.

“We’re going to increase that one-time payment to a second-time payment for every 14 days that people are evacuated from their homes,” Horgan said.

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READ MORE: B.C. cabinet: Key ministries and who’s in charge of them

“This is unprecedented. Usually when an emergency is declared people are usually back in their homes within that two-week period, that may not be the case for many individuals.”

Horgan said the relief payments would also apply to people affected by flooding in the interior earlier this month.

The new NDP government is also establishing a wildfires task force to be led by new Forests Minister Doug Donaldson and new Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

Highways Minister Claire Trevena, Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser, Children and Families Minister Katrine Conroy, and Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness Jen Rice will also be on the task force.

That task force will be touring the fire zones this week.

“The first responsibility or the task force members is to get out and talk to people and hear first-hand the challenges people are facing first-hand,” Horgan said.

The swift move to focus on wildfires comes a day after Horgan and his NDP cabinet were sworn in in Victoria.

Along with the fires, Horgan has said that his priorities would include the opioid crisis, softwood lumber and investing in elementary and secondary school education.

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This is the first time B.C. has had a New Democrat government in 16 years.

 

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