B.C. lays out $2.1 billion in spending to recover from floods and fires

Click to play video: 'B.C. budget 2022: Province releases plan for new fiscal year' B.C. budget 2022: Province releases plan for new fiscal year
Finance Minister Selina Robinson unveiled B.C.'s budget for the new fiscal year.And as Richard Zussman reports, we will be spending a lot more than we earn over the next three years. – Feb 22, 2022

The B.C. government has committed more than $2.1 billion for recovery from last year’s catastrophic natural disasters, and to better protect communities against future climate disasters.

Of the new funds, outlined in the 2022 budget tabled Tuesday, $1.5 billion will go toward response and recovery efforts over the next three years.

That $1.1 billion in contingencies over three years to support people, businesses and communities that have been hard-hit with costs from recent disasters, including wildfire and floods.

Read more: ‘We’ll work with the numbers’: Mixed reaction from Indigenous advocates to B.C. budget

“We’ve all seen the impact that climate change is having on people’s lives and in our communities,” said B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson in a Thursday press conference.

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“That’s why while we continue the fight against climate change, we’re also investing to strengthen our defences so we can protect people, communities, and businesses from future climate-related disasters.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. budget 2022: Shifting the way the province deals with the wildfire threat' B.C. budget 2022: Shifting the way the province deals with the wildfire threat
B.C. budget 2022: Shifting the way the province deals with the wildfire threat – Feb 22, 2022

After criticism in November over a lack of staffing, the province is expanding the River Forecast Centre and floodplain mapping program.

The budget also includes a one-time increase for costs under the Emergency Program Act, to $436 million from $36 million, to support flood recovery.

The province has funded a year-round wildfire service as well, allowing public safety professionals to complete more fire mitigation work before and after the summer months, and provide support to communities through FireSmart initiatives.

This funding supports ongoing disaster response and recovery activities, such as debris removal and cleanup.

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Read more: From 911 calls to child care, here are 10 things you need to know about B.C.’s budget

The previously announced $5 billion in federal funds will help the province offset the costs of the response and recovery efforts from the floods and other recent natural disasters.

There are still minimal details on the long-term work the province is expected to undertake to rebuild the Coquihalla Highway.

Thousands of people from the razed village of Lytton have also not returned home yet, nor have many whose homes were destroyed by November’s record-breaking floods.

The vast majority of people in Merritt, however, which evacuated during the floods, have been able to return.

“That process is already underway in a number of communities impacted by floods and fires,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth on Thursday.

“We have been working with communities around eligibility and the funding that will be required.”

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