There are communities in Canada that face annual flooding and wildfires. Areas of the country have experienced ice storms leaving hundreds of thousands without heat. The climates across large areas of this country means that many communities have to be prepared for many challenges. Add to issues with weather the threats some areas of the country could face from rare occurrences like tsunamis, earthquakes, toxic spills or attacks and each community should have an emergency preparedness plan.
The federal government created a program called the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, or JEPP, in 1980. This program provided funding to the provinces for annual emergency preparedness exercises. Through the program, the federal government would pay up to 75 percent of the cost of these exercises. It was enhanced after the attacks in 2001 to ensure preparedness for chemical or biological attacks or nuclear emergencies.
This year, the federal government decided to cancel the program, stating that the ‘original objectives’ of the program had been met. Essentially, the Conservatives have decided that communities across the country are as prepared as they need to be for any given situation.
They are now hearing complaints from provinces, municipalities and fire departments across the country.
The emergency coordinator for the Sunshine Coasts Regional District told his local paper that the decision makes his community more vulnerable.
This cut adds to the shortfall that many emergency services are already experiencing. In cutting their budget, the federal government downloads costs onto the provinces, who in turn download costs onto municipalities, who are forced to make tough decisions. And fire, police and ambulance services are the municipalities’ responsibility.
The program cost the federal government $5 million per year, which they will now put into their deficit reduction plan. What the actual cost will be if communities are prepared when emergencies arise remains to be seen.
The JEPP will officially end in April 2013.
Photo Credit: davidd