British Columbia Earthquake Early Warning and the BC NDP/Green Pact

#BCGreens #California #DiarmuidODea #JAlert #PNSN #PremierChristyClark #SASMEX #ShakeAlert BCNDP

The expected BC Green/NDP government will likely continue the development of an earthquake early warning system in British Columbia.

It looks increasingly likely that there will be a change in government in British Columbia (BC) sometime in the early summer. This will happen if, as expected, the combined votes of the BC Green and BC New Democratic Party (NDP) Members of the British Columbia Legislature (MLAs) vote against the upcoming BC Liberal government's Speech from the Throne. The BC Greens and BC NDP have 44 MLAs whereas the BC Liberals have only 43 MLAs. 

The BC Greens are not in a coalition and they have not agreed to "join" the new NDP government. They have agreed to support the NDP legislation which the two parties has already been agreed to in a signed declaration. Think of it as a pact. This arrangement raises many constitutional issues and may still result in a very early election in British Columbia. For a very well-written analysis of this issue, I recommend James Bowden's blog Parliamentum

  1. Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark, MLA

The BC Government which is run by the right-centre coalition BC Liberals and its leader Premier Christy Clark only got serious about building an earthquake early warning system in 2014 after the Auditor-General wrote a scathing report about BC's lack of preparation for a catastrophic earthquake that may originate from the Cascadia subduction zone. As a result, the government of BC tasked Ocean Networks Canada of the University of Victoria with building an underwater sensor system on the Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of Vancouver Island. Ocean Networks  Canada is expected to deliver the completed and tested system to the Government of British Columbia by April 2019. 

Once the seabed system is complete, the plan is to integrate the sensors into already existing seismic networks in British Columbia and roll out an earthquake early warning system on par with Japan's J-Alert or Mexico's SASMEX.

The British Columbia plan has been designed and developed in the image of the United States Geological Survey's ShakeAlert system. ShakeAlert is managed by the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. ShakeAlert also receives indirect funding from the State of California through the Governor's Office of Emergency Management. Shake Alert has recently been notified that its federal funding has been cut by the President for the fiscal year 2018. Unless the House of Representatives or Senate of the United States reinstates funding earthquake early warning system could be in jeopardy . 

The BC Liberals are strongly supported by affluent suburbs around Vancouver and most of rural Mainland of BC. In these areas, earthquakes are a concern but are not a front of mind worry. The new BC NDP government and its partners the BC Greens, on the other hand, are very established on Vancouver Island where there is the greatest possible danger from earthquakes particularly one that would originate off the coast of Vancouver Island. The entire BC Green caucus are from  Vancouver Island. Every other MLA on Vancouver Island save one is an NDP MLA. Together they have 13 MLAs including John Horgan the probable next premier and Andrew Weaver, the leader of the BC Green Party both of whom represent and live in Victoria area ridings. 

With a complete switch in geographic perspective, it is likely that the new government will want to rush the earthquake early warning system to where it can resemble other disaster warning systems on the continent for tornado and hurricanes. 


Diarmuid O'Dea


Diarmuid O'Dea is the Director of Strategy and Business Development for SOFTAC Systems and QuakeTrip Earthquake Detection. The Earthquake blog is intended to highlight public policy issues around Emergency Preparedness with an emphasis on Earthquakes. Diarmuid is a member of the Britsh Columbia Seismic Safety Council and recently made a presentation on Private Sector Earthquake Solutions to the End-Users group of the Earthquake Early Warning Meeting organized by Ocean Networks Canada and held at Public Safety Canada. 

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