The News Rundown
- It has not been a good week for BC, indeed it has been a disastrous one. Beginning on Sunday night, torrential rain fell down over Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, Coastal Washington, and into the BC Interior as well, sparking mudslides that washed out highways connecting Victoria with the rest of the Island, and Vancouver with the rest of the country.
- On Vancouver Island, the TransCanada Highway 1 has been closed in several places. The #1 heading north from Victoria has been partially closed due to mudslides and rock falls that have damaged the only major link with the north part of the island. There have also been closures on either side of Duncan due to mudslides, and a closure on the #19 north of Nanaimo due to a sinkhole. The Island got off relatively easy in comparison to the mainland however.
- On the mainland, the area of Abbotsford has been almost completely underwater all week, and the Lower Mainland has been cut off by highway and rail from the rest of the country, as mudslides and flooding have closed highways #99 north of Pemberton, the #1 in several places west of Hope and north in the Fraser Canyon, the #5 Coquihalla has been completely washed out in several places between Hope and Kamloops, and the #3 highway was buried under mudslides just west of Princeton. Essentially Vancouver has been boxed in.
- This event has led to panic buying and gas shortages in most areas of the province, as supply trucks struggle to get through. British Columbia is implementing two new orders under the Emergency Program Act in order to stabilize fuel supplies in B.C. and keep major roads clear for essential travel only. The order comes as the province grapples with supply chain disruptions due to devastating flooding, The general public in Metro Vancouver, on Vancouver Island and other parts of southwestern B.C., are being restricted to only 30 litres of gas per visit at a gas station.
- Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in a statement: “We are asking people to limit their fuel consumption and vehicle travel at this time and are putting in place orders under the provincial state of emergency to support this. These steps will keep commercial traffic moving, stabilize our supply chains and make sure everyone gets home safely. We are asking people not to travel through severely affected areas – for their own well-being, but also to make sure the fuel we do have goes toward the services people need in this time of crisis.”
- British Columbia is working with other jurisdictions to increase the supply of gas into the province. Additional supplies are coming from Alberta, as well as from Washington, Oregon and California. The fuel will come by barge and by road.
- The Trans Mountain pipeline has been damaged and there is a reduced flow of product coming through the pipeline. The company says it may be up and running by the end of next week.
- The province has also announced measures to restrict non-essential travel to and from impacted areas. Highway 99, Highway 3 and Highway 7 will be open to essential travel only.
- This has been a disastrous event, and our thoughts are with the people of BC as our province recovers from this event as we move forward. Later on in the show, we will discuss just how we can do that.
- Much of the media coverage in Alberta this week has been about how the cat is on the roof when it comes to Jason Kenney’s political leadership this weekend at the UCP convention.
- A lot of people are talking about things that only the membership of the UCP has a say in and some of which, some think is illegal. But should anything newsworthy happen, we’ll have the story about that after it has occurred (unless the media are time travellers) this weekend.
- This week though we’re going to talk about Edmonton’s desire to give up autonomy to the federal government.
- The federal government put out a request to jurisdictions across the country for areas that could be used to create new national parks.
- The idea is that a national park helps to conserve wildlife, ecological systems, biodiversity, and in the eyes of this federal government, national parks also help fight climate change.
- The City of Edmonton under new Mayor Amarjeet Sohi have said that they’d be interested in dedicating a portion of the Edmonton river valley to become a national park.
- There’s lots of questions that come with this though. Right now the river valley is free to use, would there be an entry fee like in Banff or Jasper?
- Would people still be able to use it for recreational activities like biking or roller-blading?
- The question of local autonomy does come up and we need to be clear that this would not be a case of the federal government having control of a segment of Edmonton.
- In most national parks the local communities are involved with administration and setting policies in place.
- The concerns about biking originally came from Toronto’s Rouge park which prohibits biking but the federal government is clear that it’s not a one size fits all option.
- That means Edmonton has a lot of say, right? What could go wrong with that?
- With National Park distinction comes a federal requirement on environmental standards. Edmonton is hundreds of kilometres downstream the North Saskatchewan river.
- A question that the city and province need to ask on this is, what if the natural resources industry, mining coal or other minerals, picks up west of Edmonton on the eastern side of the rockies?
- Will those projects, typically governed by the provincial government, now need to undergo a federal environmental assessment by the federal government since the water from near those projects flows through Edmonton?
- Nobody has asked this question and it seems as though with most things city hall related, the city is all too eager to press forward.
- Edmonton could, potentially, be giving the federal government more influence in Alberta’s natural resources projects.
- Other things that should be asked, what about projects like the former city council’s vanity funicular? Will projects like that be allowed to go forward?
- Or what about the proposed solar farm near the EL Smith water treatment plant on the south west side of the city?
- Granted the idea is for the national park designation to be in specific areas near the centre of the city but in the early days of this project these are the questions that city council needs to be asking when they are not.
- It’s likely that such a proposal would take years to work its way through the system but major changes and large scale questions posing problems are easier to answer early on when a project is in its hypothetical phase.
- This story once again proves that very few journalists in the media and very few city council members are thinking big picture on this project.
- It’s something that has the power to affect all of Alberta but it’s being sold as a project purely for Edmonton. This story needs a wider net.
- BC's historically disastrous floods and mudslides have exposed the fact that Canada's infrastructure is not equipped to handle extreme weather events. In the southern B.C., torrential rainfall that fell earlier this week has led to flooding, landslides and mudslides that damaged highways, triggered evacuations and isolated thousands of people.
- The damaged rail lines and highways have also effectively cut off the Port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest port. It will limit shipments of consumer goods into the country, while stopping farmers and resource industries from shipping products out of the country from other parts of the province, as well as the prairie provinces.
- Kent Moore, a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Toronto, says that “The huge human cost and capital cost of this event will pale in comparison to what’s going to happen in the future. We have to deal with that problem.”
- The floods have not only accentuated the spotlight on climate change, but on climate infrastructure throughout the country, Moore said. Infrastructures, like sewer systems, water pumping stations and dams, are designed for a certain range of weather extremes, but the frequency of these is changing, he said.
- “One has to think about where we’re planning our highways, where we put our wastewater treatment plants (and) pumps … the lower mainland of B.C. needs to be pumped out because it’s at risk of flooding. If we just rebuild what’s there without understanding that we need to essentially revisit how we build things, then we’re just going to have this problem in the future.”
- Water pumping stations have been the focus in Abbotsford, B.C., where officials have worried over the possible failure of the Barrowtown Pump Station, which moves nearly 1.9 million litres of water per minute. It continues to operate at full power, Mayor Henry Braun said Thursday.
- The station has remained in operation thanks to 300 volunteers who have worked to protect the facility with sandbags. A failure could have led to “catastrophic” further flooding on the Sumas Prairie, an agricultural area that’s been hardest hit by flooding in the region.
- The Barrowtown Pump Station was built in the early 1980s for $27 million, replacing a station that had successfully kept the prairie flood-free for six decades. A century ago, a large lake occupied much of the space between the small communities of Chilliwack and Abbotsford. The pump station, and the one before it, helped drain hundreds of square kilometres of fertile farmland, turning the region into B.C.’s agriculture capital. Yet, the work of keeping Sumas Prairie dry will never be finished.
- Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says that the amount of water that has been flowing into the prairie from the US is still too much to deal with. “We are still not pumping anywhere near the amount of water out of the system that is coming into the prairie from across the border. We will have numbers at some point of how much water is left in there and how long will it take to pump out, but we are not talking days – we are talking weeks.”
- Ryan Ness, adaptation research director at the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, said that governments should look at their water pumping systems to see if they can truly handle extreme rainfall and flooding: “Were those pumps designed to function in the right level of disaster and at a level of disaster that could have been anticipated? That question can be asked all around the country when it comes to flooding: Are our defenses up to the task of the types of events that we can reasonably foresee?”
- Ness also says that other areas of infrastructure also need to be looked at, including homes and buildings, roads and railways, and electricity systems.
- Particularly in B.C., the province is going to need hundreds of millions of dollars in investments to ensure its dike systems, which control water flow, don’t fail during future events, said Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
- Forests also need rehabilitation after years of logging and wildfires, he added. “Without a healthy cover of trees there to soak up and to moderate water flow, you are going to see more extreme events in terms of potential flooding, as well as more extreme events in terms of drought. All of these things have to be looked at and they’re going to require a tremendous amount of investment, and it’s not going to be solved overnight.”
- On Wednesday, BC Premier John Horgan spoke with Prime Minister Trudeau about the landslides and floods affecting the province. Trudeau promised support for "any federal resources required, from short-term assistance – such as providing air support – to long-term rebuilding efforts," according to the government of Canada.
- One wonders if the long term rebuilding efforts will include the much decried Canadian Infrastructure Bank. Trudeau mentioned using the Canadian Armed Forces to support rescue efforts as well as cleanup and support, but there has been no mention of funding using the Infrastructure bank.
- The largely useless, ultra-expensive federal government boondoggle set up by the Liberals to boost the economy by funding infrastructure projects – “green” projects preferred, has barely given any money out from its initial $35 billion grant 3 years ago, and most of that has gone to projects in Ontario and Quebec.
- Horgan confirmed there have already been fatalities and more are expected: “The RCMP confirmed the mudslides have claimed at least one life. That’s devastating news for a family, devastating news for all British Columbians, but sadly, we expect to confirm even more fatalities in the coming days,” Horgan said in a news conference Wednesday.
- Horgan declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, which was much later than people had expected, given the flooding and mudslides had taken their toll on the province as early as Sunday night.
- The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days and may be extended or rescinded as necessary. The state of emergency applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a coordinated response to protect the public, which remains the provincial government's top priority.
- Can better planning, and better federal AND provincial spending around future infrastructure projects actually happen under the current administration? It's hard to know for sure, but so far, the Canadian Infrastructure bank, and our current projects, dating back several decades have been put at critical risk from just one weather event. It has shown just how vulnerable Canadians are, and that we're at mercy of the federal government's whims. It's time to expect better from them.
- In a return to face to face meetings, Justin Trudeau, US President Joe Biden, and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador conducted their first three amigos summit.
- There were the usual topics discussed including pandemic recovery and vaccine loans to central American countries but there was one huge sticking point for our country.
- The sticking point in question is electric vehicle subsidies in the US for vehicles strictly made in the United States.
- The subsidy would give a $12,500 tax credit to any electric vehicle purchased in the US, made in the US.
- This is an issue that was not only mentioned to Biden but it was also mentioned to other officials as well.
- The electric vehicle subsidy was also discussed in press conferences with President Biden and Justin Trudeau.
- When asked about exempting Canada, Biden’s answer was “we’re gonna talk about it” and when asked the follow-up, “why are you trying to kill the car industry in Canada, Mr. President, is there any room for compromise?” Biden’s answer: I don’t know.
- This illustrates a key point about the American government that many may not know: even with control of both houses of congress, Biden has to work hard to get anything done.
- In an ideal world Biden would be able to push through his agenda and make an agreement in person with Prime Minister Trudeau that Canada would be exempt.
- But there will need to be work done to get this concession into the legislation and through both houses of congress.
- At this point, the legislation involved has already passed the House of Representatives (similar to our House of Commons) and will need to pass the senate.
- The senate currently has a tiny majority in Biden’s favour, when Vice President Kamala Harris' tie breaks a 50-50 vote.
- It appears as though West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, could be poised to vote against the bill bringing forward these subsidies.
- It’s in situations like this that individual senators representing a relatively small state like West Virginia wield huge amounts of power.
- If anything, Canada should be lobbying and meeting with Joe Manchin and other moderate senators in both parties of border states to secure good deals that work for both countries.
- Throughout the Trump administration we heard that the problems faced in the US relationship were as a result of him and him alone.
- Now we’re facing the same problems with the Biden administration.
- The constant of course is the Trudeau government.
- The marker for success set by the Canadian delegation was that it ended with a friendly dialog and commitment to keep talking and working on these issues over the coming years.
- The reason years into the future is mentioned is that these subsidies will take a few years to come into effect.
- What we are witnessing here is modern economic populism at work to the detriment of close allies and friends.
- This happened during the Trump administration and will continue to varying degrees under future administrations.
- Canada can protect itself in two ways in addition to building bridges with moderate senators and those from border states: first, take our industries that compete directly or indirectly with the United States to the next level. That means autos, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy.
- Second, pursue closer economic ties with the United States and Mexico. In terms of raw earning power, Canada’s citizens are closer to that of the United States than Mexico. This means doubling down on the renewed USMCA trade deal and bringing our economies closer together to more resemble that of the European Union.
- Canada needs to be ready and aside from handling the current market situations, we need to be looking out and into the future in terms of what makes us competitive globally but also how to not be undercut and ripped off by the United States. It happened under Trump, it’s happening under Biden.
Word of the Week
Disaster - a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life.
Quote of the Week
“One has to think about where we’re planning our highways, where we put our wastewater treatment plants (and) pumps … the lower mainland of B.C. needs to be pumped out because it’s at risk of flooding. If we just rebuild what’s there without understanding that we need to essentially revisit how we build things, then we’re just going to have this problem in the future.” - University of Toronto professor Kent Moore on the BC flooding disaster
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Flooded by Disasters
Teaser: Heavy rainfall causes massive flooding and mudslides in BC, a new national park in Edmonton may cause federal intrusions, and the disaster in BC unearths vulnerabilities in our infrastructure. Also, Trudeau meets with Biden, but gets nothing from it.
Recorded Date: November 19, 2021
Release Date: November 21, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes