By Diarmuid O'Dea
Jennifer Rice, MLA
The new BC Green-NDP alliance in British Columbia has downgraded the Emergency Preparedness portfolio. Rather than it being a cabinet position as it was under former Premier Christy Clark's government, it is now the responsibility of a parliamentary-secretary- who is Member of the Legislature (MLA), Jennifer Rice (NDP, North Coast).
After a scathing report by the Auditor-General, Russ Jones, in 2014, and 2014 Renteira Report the BC government in July 2015 created a cabinet level Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness with a focus on preparations for a catastrophic earthquake on the BC coast. The outgoing cabinet minister was Naomi Yamamoto (L, North Vancouver-Lonsdale). The greater responsibility for Emergency Management and the provincial agency that manages this file Emergency Management BC (EMBC) was moved to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
In the new government Emergency Management is the responsibility of Mike Farnworth, Minister of of Public Safety and Solicitor General. He is also the NDP House Leader.
The new arrangement is surprising given that so many of the BC NDP and Green caucus live on Vancouver Island which is close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ). Moreover, the new Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness , Jennifer Rice lives in Prince Rupert, BC which is far outside of the CSZ. Further, there are Vancouver area MLAs that could have served in the portfolio. It would seem that a Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island MLA would be better suited and more sensitive to the phenomenal danger that the Big One entails and might be more motivated to complete the many programs that the BC Liberals began to mitigate earthquake disaster.
Is it possible that some of the Vision Vancouver staff that have joined the Premier's office have convinced him that the new approach to disaster planning which moves preparation from a civil defence model to a socio-economic one or "the resilient city" is the way to go?