By Diarmuid O'Dea
Jennifer Rice, MLA for the North Coast riding, is British Columbia's new Parliamentary-Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. That means that British Columbia's preparation strategy for a catastrophic earthquake from the Cascadia Subduction Zone off Vancouver Island and other possible origins and types is no longer a cabinet-level responsibility.
There is a senior minister , Mike Farnsworth, who is in charge of Emergency Management but that is a completely different function and only very little of his responsibility will cover the findings and recommendations in the BC Auditor General's 2014 Report "Catastrophic Earthquake Preparation" . The keyword in that report name is preparation and whereas the BC Liberals made the job a cabinet level task, the BC NDP-Green alliance has removed it from cabinet scrutiny. Earthquakes aren't the only issue that involve the emergency preparedness file in British Columbia; nevertheless, it's widely agreed that it is the greatest possible peril against life and property in the province's future even more than "wild' forest fires in the province's interior region.
Ms. Rice has no identified background in emergency preparation and is a relative newcomer to British Columbia from Ottawa, according to her BC Legislative biography. She served as Prince Rupert councillor prior to being elected to the BC Legislature. There is no mention of family or advanced education in her biography .
There are earthquakes in Ottawa. In addition, Haida Gwaii, Alaska and Yukon are regions near her Prince Rupert, BC riding that too have experienced recent earthquakes, so no doubt she has some familiarity with the threat from earthquakes. Her main volunteer activity in British Columbia prior to elected office was opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline and on consumer issues regarding BC Ferries.
The new government has only a few seats in rural BC and is anxious to protect those few members with the publicity that comes from being a senior member of the government but also to avoid being accused of ignoring rural BC.
I've never met Ms. Rice but it is an impressive rise for someone with her credentials and relative inexperience in British Columbia. She is either very well connected within the New Democratic Party and will have lots of "help" or the new Premier has thrown a very untested person into the brink. I'm sure she's hoping that there won't be a serious earthquake anytime soon.