Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Disaster response, Con-style

Ottawa is withdrawing the troops from flood clean-up in Quebec. The locals, naturally, are less than pleased. It isn't beyond the Harper government to "punish" Quebec for voting orange instead of blue but that's not so much the part that gets me. It is the reference to the exchange of letters between Vic Toews and the Quebec government that got my goat.
The Quebec government has released an exchange of letters with Ottawa, where Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the military would not help with the cleanup.
Toews suggested that the military's role includes placing sandbags to protect property, but not picking up sandbags to clean up.
Toews also explained that the military should not stay behind because, if it performed any cleanup work, it would be competing with the private sector.
He wrote that he and MacKay had agreed on the subject — and, as a result, he never even transferred Quebec's request to the defence minister.
The military role in aid to the civil power, disaster response, ends when it smacks into a possible business opportunity?  Since fucking when?

A rumour went around the troops during the Ice Storm of 1998 that Ontario Hydro was preventing Canadian Forces electricians and linesmen from restoring power to various areas because the former wanted the overtime hours. The military gets paid the same regardless. I have no idea if it was true, but that sort of selfishness pissed us off something fierce. Now, if this reads right, the Cons seem to be trying to privatize disaster response.

Here's a little bit of reasoning I was going to include in a different post. Climate change is inducing extreme weather events which are very likely worsen in the coming years. This month we've seen Slave Lake torched and major flooding in two provinces requiring military intervention. The Americans this month have lost entire towns and suffered three-figure mortality from tornadoes. Because we live in developed nations, we have an awful amount of "property" vulnerable to these events. More property and more severe environmental phenomena mean more deployments of the armed forces in response to natural disasters.

Thus domestic disaster response will be an increasingly important task for the armed forces in the coming years, utilising significant numbers of troops. The Ice Storm saw 15 000 soldiers mobilised, along with countless firefighters, police, hydro workers, and other skilled public services.

If the Conservative response to these events is to look for the 'market-based solution' or attempt to punish regions for not voting for them, they will exacerbate the severity of problem.

Then again, this is the MO of that class and we shouldn't be surprised.


thwap said...

Didn't even pass on the request.

Do a good job cataloging the harpercon atrocities. There'll be a zillion of 'em.

double nickel said...

Stephen harper...he's not here for you.

Jim said...

Actually, the concern for the commercial community is only part of the reason, and it predates Harper by at least twenty years.

Even the small stores on the bases (run for the benefit of the soldiers) have to be careful not to undercut prices in the town, lest the local merchants get onto their MP and cause trouble.

In addition, the CF mission is the defence of Canada, not the general tidying up of the place. In emergency, there is no one else in the country who can respond as effectively, competently or quickly as the CF. That's why the provincial governments can call on them.

But after the waters recede, it's not an emergency any more. If the CF has the assets and the budget, they need them elsewhere. All of the costs of the response are covered by the CF internally. If they are burning gas, food and accommodation costs to pick up sandbags, that's less money for the next emergency.

I am a little surprised that the request never made it to MND, though. I thought under the National Defence Act he was charged with making the decision.

Boris said...

Thanks Jim. I suppose some of this depends on where the distinction is made between when the emergency phase ends and the clean-up begins and the reasoning behind that distinction.

Call me paranoid, but I don't see it beyond the Cons to play their fucked-up politics with an emergency.

As to why it never made to the MND, well these guys have a history of playing fast and loose with various conventions and laws.

Alison said...

I know a teeny bit about this.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is responsible for administering disaster relief operations inside Canada (DRO) so that would be Toews.

Unless it is a national disaster, responsibility for managing emergency relief stays at first the civil/local and then provincial level.
CF responsibility is to provide support only as long as lives are in danger and essential services are lacking and then get out. This is why CF does not assume overall command of disaster operations - would make it harder to get out once initial emergency is over.