2017 British Columbia Election and Earthquake Mitigation Policy


The Britsh Columbia provincial general election is May 9, 2017. Currently, BC Liberal Party is the government, a loose coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives. The BC Liberals have been in power since 2001. The main opposition parties are the liberal-socialist  New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Green Party. Where do the three parties stand on Emergency Preparedness policy and more specifically Earthquake mitigation? How will they prepare for the #BigOne?

In 2014 the BC Auditor-General criticized the current government fro not doing enough to prepare for the possibility of a "catastrophic earthquake". 

The government responded by appointing a dedicated person in cabinet MLA Naomi Yamamoto (BC Liberal North Vancouver-Lonsdale) as Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness. She has strengthened Emergency Preparedness BC and improved coordination between various stakeholders.  This includes the annual province-wide Shake Out programs and drills. In addition, the government awarded Ocean Networks, which is part of the University of Victoria, $5 million dollars to install an Earthquake Early Warning system on the seabed near the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ). This is the area where most scientists believe a catastrophic earthquake on the west coast will originate. The Early Warning System will be complete by 2019. In a short period of time, the government is making progress on the Emergency Preparedness earthquake file. 

This effort is on top of $1.5Billion that has been spent on the Seismic Mitigation program for BC schools over the last twenty years.   More than half of identified schools in the entire province have been seismically renovated or rebuilt entirely if that was the more financially feasible option.

In the BC NDP platform, there is no direct mention of emergency services or earthquake preparation.

Nevertheless, despite the apparent progress by the government, respected MLA Mike Farnsworth (NDP- Port Coquitlam) has been critical of the government efforts especially in regards to the seismic upgrade of schools. He has criticized the government for going too slow on this project.  He is the NDP critic for Public Safety and Attorney-General and is a candidate in this election. 

The Green Party approach to emergency preparedness against natural disasters is similar to the City of Vancouver. The strategy is built around the Resilient state model. Rather than specific policy to respond to forest fires and floods, they make emergency preparedness part of the overall government philosophy of Resilience. They imply that climate change is the source of most natural disasters. They, therefore, want to work to reduce the causes (reduce greenhouse gasses for example) and build a government that is always prepared for unplanned disaster with the appropriate social policy. I'm not sure where earthquakes fit into this model on the cause side but you may expect on the resilience side of the equation that they would offer incentives for earthquake kits and encourage communities to have more comprehensive survival plans. 


Diarmuid D. O'Dea


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