Modernizing the Emergency Program Act

A new Emergency Program Act is coming for BC, a major initiative that will repeal and replace the current act, UBCM delegates heard at a Thursday morning clinic. Many challenges with the current legislation were revealed through local government experiences of the unprecedented 2017 and 2018 flood and wildfire seasons.

Emergency Management BC Deputy Minister Lori Halls described the process to date and the path ahead, once Cabinet confirmation is received in the coming weeks. The process will see a discussion paper and engagement with all levels of government, indigenous Nations, industry and the public later this year, culminating with a new Act coming into force by spring 2021, she said.  Notably, the new Act will incorporate the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a first in Canada.

The current EPA dates to 1993 and only deals with preparedness and response, and not mitigation or recovery, focusing on authority of the Province in an emergency. Potential shifts in the new Act may include increasing local authority planning and powers for responding and recovering from disaster, working more closely with First Nations partners through regional cooperation and approaches, and a renewed focus on critical infrastructure.

“We often do our planning in silos,” Halls said. “Thank God for the generosity of communities that opened their arms to those forced to evacuate.” We need this partnership and collaboration in our planning, she said. “Disasters know no border.”

Halls credited UBCM’s contribution to date as key to helping identify and fill gaps in the Act, dating back to the previous discussion paper on earthquake preparedness and also the ongoing work of the UBCM Flood and Wildfire Advisory Committee. Specific input included the need to maintain local government authority, and recognize local government experience and expertize.

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