FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2003
HINTON CALLS FOR REFORM OF FEDERAL DISASTER ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
Feds Won't Share Most Costs of BC Forest Fires
OTTAWA: Betty Hinton, Member of Parliament for the riding of Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, one of the ridings hardest hit by this summer's fierce forest fires, is campaigning hard for an overhaul of federal disaster relief measures.
Ms. Hinton stated, "The government's Disaster Financial Assistance program will fail to deal with most of the costs of the forest fires that have ravaged BC this summer. It has already proven inadequate to deal with SARS and the mad cow scare, and countless other crises."
She was referring to the fact that costs associated with actually fighting the BC fires and those incurred in the form of lost revenues for governments, business and individuals are not eligible to be shared between the provincial and federal governments. "When any region of this country is hit by a catastrophe, the nation as a whole should be there to help out. That is one of the main purposes of the federation. The people of BC should not have to shoulder the burden of their misfortune alone. The federal government has to step up to the plate."
Ms. Hinton also noted that Newfoundland is still fighting for compensation for the cost of helping diverted travelers on September 11th 2001, and Manitoba has outstanding claims relating to the 1997 floods. "The immediate aftermath of any disaster is the time of greatest need. The financial shock has to be spread out, to lessen the impact on individual provinces. The current system does not achieve that."
Ms. Hinton has written a letter to the Minister of Defence asking him to expedite the payment of compensation to BC and to change the system to accommodate a wider range of costs incurred in future disasters. She has also contacted provincial authorities to offer her assistance in pressuring the federal government. Ms. Hinton said, "I am committed to ensuring that the Canadian federation looks after its own. A lot has to change at the federal level before that becomes reality."