Climate Change - Wildfires
Climate change increases the risks of fires, droughts, flooding and extreme weather events. 2021 has been met in British Columbia with over 1200 wildfires since April with over 400, 000 hectares of land burnt. The destruction of Lytton, BC is alarming. The Greater Vancouver Area has not seen rain for over 40 days since June 15.
We're witnessing droughts and overwhelming wildfires in the Interior this summer. This should alert us to ensure our municipalities and high risk areas have enough water capacity to put out the fires. Canada needs to invest in more innovation for robust firefighting capacities, extreme weather event preparedness and cost-effective and durable infrastructure.
To be pre-emptive, a few days following the Lytton fires, I reached out to the Mayors of Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and Belcarra. We discussed wildfire preparedness and I offered my support if there would be an emergency.
Understanding that summer forest fires are common in British Columbia and that climate change could escalate the possibility of devastating wildfires, I rose in the House on May 6, 2020, to raise my concern on the challenge of managing evacuation plans in the middle of a pandemic.
"Forest fire season is approaching in British Columbia. A wildfire in the midst of stringent social distancing measures would require a unique plan to ensure a safe evacuation. What would be the Minister's emergency evacuation plan for forested urban ridings if a fire disaster were to take place?"
During a meeting with the former Mayor of Belcarra soon after I was elected as Member of Parliament, I was briefed that there is essentially only 1 hour's worth of water accessibility to fight a forest fire in Belcarra.
Therefore, I supported the Village's application for infrastructure support to build a new reservoir. I also sought the Minister of Infrastructure's support and requested a meeting to discuss this issue. The Minister didn't grant me a meeting. I later learned from the current Mayor of Belcarra that the Province rejected the application.
I rose in the House on May 6, 2020 to advocate for emergency preparedness for wildfires in British Columbia in a pandemic setting.
Protection of Waterways
Early last year, I read an article on Tri-City News about sewage bubbling onto North Road and entering Stoney Creek. https://www.tricitynews.com/local-news/bubbling-coquitlam-sewage-spews-on-to-north-road-into-burnaby-creek-3116393
The issue greatly concerned me because seeing human feces and toilet paper on the road shouldn't be happening in our country. It's a public health and safety issue and COVID is teaching us we need to take micro-organisms and public health very seriously. At the same time, raw sewage should not be contaminating a creek where salmon come to spawn and where endangered species like Nooksack Dace have made their home.
I spoke with and wrote to the Mayors of Coquitlam and Port Moody to raise this issue early in the process last year and to express my support if and when they are ready to seek funding to fix the problem.
Over the past year, I've met with local stream keepers on zoom calls and received continuous briefings and reports from the municipality on email threads about Stoney Creek and the North Road sewage overflow problem.
There is an infrastructure problem. What continues to come up is that it's too expensive to fix.
Ignoring aging infrastructure because it's too costly and daunting to fix isn't a solution. That would only worsen the problem and increase the cost to mitigate down the road.
Some people blame development. But development is inevitable and there is a housing crisis. We need to build more affordable homes. Rather than pointing blame, we need to look at solutions. These are points I've gleaned from speaking with different stakeholders.
If we can't afford to fix, expand or replace infrastructure, we need to look into innovative materials and engineering strategies that will allow projects to be cost-effective and sustainable i.e. durable and resistant to the impact of climate change.
Rather than fixing sewage infrastructure in patch work like Frankenstein, projects need to be handled with inter-municipal alignment for efficacy.
Infrastructure needs to be in place to support demands imposed by development.
We need more accountability to ensure compliance with the Fisheries Act is being practiced and enforced to protect public health and aqua ecosystems.
From a federal perspective, investing in innovation and reducing red-tape can help new materials and engineering find their way into the implementation process closer to real-time than a few decades later.
Bill C-269 had the right approach to trigger more accountability to the enforcement of the Fisheries Act. It was an honour to give a speech on second reading of the Hon. Andrew Scheer's Private Members Bill, Bill C-269, a ban on raw sewage dumping into our waterways. In the few days between my speech and the day Bill C-269 would be voted on, I worked hard to garner support for the bill. I had heard that the Liberals were going to vote against it but that the NDPs and Greens were going to support it. So I started a social media campaign to ask people to write their Liberal MPs to support this bill. Unfortunately, the NDP and Green Members also voted against it along with Liberal MPs on June 23rd, 2021 and the bill was defeated.
Nevertheless, I am grateful for the support of local stream keepers and the articles that Burnaby Now, Burnaby Beacon and Tri-City News printed about my support for Bill C-269.
Although the bill didn't pass, another door opened on my quest. I discovered innovation that could be helpful for some parts of the problem. I chatted with Dr. Banthia at UBC by zoom and was greatly encouraged that the solution may be nearer than I thought, right in our own backyard.
Ignoring aging infrastructure because it's too expensive to fix isn't a solution. It will only worsen the problems and increase the cost to mitigate the problem down the road. Enforcing accountability, investing in innovation and removing red tape to implement new innovations could be a long-term solution.
Debate on Bill C-269
Statement on Securing the Environment
Debate on Emergency Preparedness - Wildfires in BC/Belcarra Water