UBCM, EMBC Partnering on EPA Modernization

The Province of British Columbia is working with local governments as part of its effort to modernize the Emergency Program Act (EPA). The current Act is outdated, remaining largely unchanged since it came into effect more than two decades ago. Recent emergency events, such as the unprecedented wildfires and extreme flooding, have underlined the need to adapt and strengthen BC's approach to mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

Recognizing that local governments are partners in emergency management and have long-standing powers and responsibilities under the currrent Act, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) and UBCM have established a formal engagement process through the UBCM Flood and Wildfire Advisory Committee. The purpose of the Committee is to provide a forum for timely and effective communication and consultation between local governments and the Province to ensure local government perspectives and input are considered by the province in the development of the modernized Act. This engagement mechanism provides a forum for local governments to share their experience and knowledge, and bring forth matters of interest or concern. The Committee began meeting with provincial representatives in June 2019.

A number of independent publications such as the Abbott-Chapman report and the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, note the need for an all-of-society approach to disaster risk, and one that focusses on all pillars of emergency management. While the current Act focuses primarily on preparedness and response, the provincial intent is for the new Act to broadly address the management and reduction of risk, reflecting lessons learned from the 2017 and 2018 wildfire and freshet seasons.  There is also a recognized need to use new tools and partnerships to more strategically and proactively address emergencies. 

In 2016, the province undertook a review of the EPA in response to external recommendations to help BC become better prepared for a catastrophic earthquake. Local governments were invited to respond to a provincial discussion paper through an online public engagement website. UBCM also provided input through a report summarizing feedback provided by 49 local authorities. UBCM's submission made three broad recommendations for the Province to consider: the need to respect local authority jurisdiction, the need for additional resources, and the need for additional consultations on some items.

The Province intends to introduce a modernized Act in the Fall 2020 legislative session.  A discussion paper outlining anticipated changes and seeking input will be released in late October or early November 2019.  Key modernization timing milestones are shown in the table below.

Milestones:

Dates:
Act Modernization – Release of the Discussion Paper Late October or early November 2019
Consultation Period – Open for feedback November 2019 - January 31, 2020
Modernized Act - Introduced in the legislature Fall 2020
Modernized Act – In force Spring 2021
Act provisions and regulations – Phased implementation Spring 2021 and subsequent years

 

The Province (through EMBC) will be working with UBCM executive, and the UBCM Flood and Wildfire Advisory Committee to ensure that all UBCM members have an opportunity to provide feedback, through robust engagement, following the release of the discussion paper. 

Once the modernized Act is in place, EMBC will provide training and guidance materials and will ensure that significant changes are introduced through a properly phased approach.  This will allow partners, including local authorities, to understand, prepare for, and work through implementation.  EMBC recognizes that any new obligations for local authorities that may be contained in the modernized Act will require resourcing.  

During UBCM Convention 2019, EMBC will host a clinic titled Modernizing British Columbia’s Emergency Program Act,which will provide a focused opportunity for UBCM delegates to learn about the approach that has been taken to this legislative initiative, how UBCM has contributed, and how UBCM members can engage with this process.   This clinic is scheduled for Thursday, September 26, from 7:30am - 8:15am.    

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