Evidence of meeting #81 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was provincial.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Serge Beaudoin  Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Patrick Tanguy  Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Lyse Langevin  Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Mario Boily  Acting Director General, Government Operations Centre, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We're going to move on. I have MP Viersen and MP Waugh, and I would ask the committee's indulgence for a couple more questions myself.

Please, go ahead.

November 2nd, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to our guests again.

I'm going to circle back again to the FireSmart program. I know that many of my communities are certified FireSmart, particularly small towns in my area.

From your perspective, has it worked? I guess that is what I'm going after. It seems to have worked in certain areas.

We had the Slave Lake fire, which burned up a big chunk of the town, a big part of the reserve, and a big part of the MD. This then spurred all these communities to pursue FireSmart. We haven't really had a test in the area since.

From your perspective, it might have been used in other jurisdictions, particularly in B.C. Did it work there?

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

Is your question specifically related to indigenous communities?

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Yes.

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

We could get you this data. If the committee is interested in this we would be pleased to put it forth in terms of return on investment. One of the things that is difficult in this return on investment in mitigation is it's very difficult to correlate it. We've been trying for a while.

You have generic studies from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency that will say $1 invested in prevention will give you $4 in return, in reduced response and recovery costs. You have the World Bank saying it's a 1:10 ratio, but it's very difficult to make....

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Our sample size is often way too small.

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

That's the challenge.

We could tell the committee how much we've invested in FireSmart by community, but the direct correlation to how that translates is very challenging.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

The Red Cross is a big part of each of these incidents and in most cases when I was in Prince George it seemed to work very well together. A big part of their job from my perspective was to identify evacuees. What else did they do beyond that?

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

Both of us will have something to say. Go ahead.

12:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Patrick Tanguy

As you mentioned, they can do a wide range of support and services by registering, but also with awareness programs to make sure that people know exactly what's happening. Eligibility for programs is another thing.

Vulnerable populations have targeted services to help them not only to evacuate but also to get access to some services.

Do you have anything to add?

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Sector Operations Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Serge Beaudoin

What's interesting with the Canadian Red Cross is that where they have existing capacity and knowledge in Canada, like reception centres, they were doing that in Quebec, for instance. They do it in B.C., and that's great. They can replicate that within other jurisdictions.

Where they don't have that capacity, for instance evacuations, they bring it from their international organization. They have knowledge. They say to us if we have a gap on emergency management, they can help us fill it. They may not have it in Canada at the moment, but they will build it, which is what they have done in Manitoba. They didn't have it for evacuations. They stepped up, got their international teams trained, and now they have capabilities. That then becomes replicable across jurisdictions.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you.

Last, again going back more on reserve and not necessarily to these big events that we've had, we see that fires in communities seem to be higher on reserve than in the general population, just from the research that's been presented here. Is this due to the lack of facilities to fight the fires or are more fires being started?

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

Yes, anecdotally there's a horrific number of deaths as well, more on reserve than not. We don't have much data. There was a reporting burden, and so we haven't been collecting data on reserve about fire incidents.

One of the recommendations is to start that. We're working on the development of a national incident reporting system.

As I said earlier, if you know what caused the fire, then you can see that some of the causes are buildings not built to code, so no standards for the buildings.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The next questioner on my list is MP Waugh.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Can we talk about restoration? We haven't talked about that, the millions of dollars that have been lost through tourism, communities disrupted for maybe decades. I mean the way of life: traplines are gone; the wildlife is gone. Who looks after the restoration? We've talked about preventive. We talked about the fire evacuation. When they go back and things have changed, is that a provincial issue or do you guys help? How does this all work?

12:40 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Government Operations Centre, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Patrick Tanguy

We mentioned the DFAA program, for instance, in the case of the B.C. wildfires, so there's a process. In the case of B.C., the B.C. government requested an advance payment of $100 million. There's been a letter sent to the Prime Minister triggering a request under DFAA to get access to an advance payment.

We need to declare the event, and have an OIC, and there are many steps, but ultimately we can provide an advance payment to the province. We're not giving assistance directly to the municipalities, but we're providing assistance to the province. Down the road we will keep working with B.C. to see what was the total cost of the B.C. wildfires. They are going to submit other claims. What we heard, just in terms of firefighting operations, was that the cost was close to $500 million. They will submit an additional request to get DFAA assistance in terms of dollars.

What DFAA includes in terms of eligible expenses, we can provide that information to the committee. You will see what the province can submit in terms of expenses. That includes some of the costs you mentioned also under the agriculture cost share agreements we have between the federal government and provinces. In the case of B.C., there was $20 million announced to support farmers who have been losing revenues, based on some of the risk programs embedded into the federal-provincial agreement. Under DFAA some of that is applicable.

The provinces can submit any losses, the cost of their firefighting operations, and even more than that. We can provide a long list of eligible expenses.

B.C. will be compensated. Above and beyond the threshold, when the costs are greater than the provinces can bear, the federal government will be there to support them. The support in terms of DFAA is post-event. It's happening afterwards, but there is also the cost of conducting all the operations, for example, the Canadian Armed Forces deploying some assets. This is some of the cost the federal government will have to absorb as well.

The federal government is a good partner when it comes to that, but the province also has to be there. When it comes to tourism and other losses of revenue, it will have to do its part as well.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

I think I'm done.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

If no one objects, I will ask a couple of questions, or a few.

Can you indicate how many communities in Canada have no pressure water systems? Do we have any communities in Canada without fire hydrants or the ability to put out a fire in the local community?

12:40 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

I could come back with those numbers. I don't have them with me.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Yes, please.

If you looked at the cost per capita for people in remote communities versus those with road access, have you any idea whether it costs more for communities without access, and if so, what is the difference? Is there an argument to say every community of a certain size should have some type of road access?

12:40 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

It would cost more with regard to exactly....

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I mean fire prevention—

12:40 p.m.

Director General, Community Infrastructure Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Lyse Langevin

Fire prevention.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

—emergency service, evacuation, the overall cost per capita for those communities or individuals who are in isolated communities versus those who are connected by road.