I spoke last night in the Emergency Debate on the Floods in B.C. Time to set partisanship aside and act immediately to decrease GHG emissions & stem climate change, to agree on emergency preparedness & on rebuilding resilient communities. Let’s fight the common foe not ourselves.
Find below my full speech and Q&A from yesterday’s emergency debate.
Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Surrey—Newton.
I ask my colleagues to spare a thought, or even a tiny tear, for my poor, beleaguered province of British Columbia. First there were heat waves in the summer, then there came fires, and it was only two months ago that we were able to deal with putting out those fires and repairing the damage after what went on. Now we face floods. Not only have we had the floods, but we hear that in a week there will be over 80 to 100 millimetres of rainfall with storms hitting the same province in the same area. Then two weeks after that, there is going to be another set of storms. I ask members to spare a thought for my province.
It is not only the cost of human life, misery and the displacement of families and people, but there is also the cost to dairy farmers. British Columbia, my province, is the capital of dairy farming in this part of the world. We should think about what has been happening. We have heard that 500 cows died. The Fraser Valley is facing a problem and neighbouring communities are adopting cattle, bringing them to their own farms to take care of them temporarily until things change. We are hearing this is happening even in nearby Alberta and Washington, D.C., where people are trying to help out with this problem.
We have heard about the economic cost. We have heard all about the cost of rebuilding, the cost to businesses, the cost to the dairy industry and the cost to the farming industry. We have seen supply chains cut off. We have seen gas being rationed in the province of British Columbia. We have seen that fuel and medicines cannot get to people who need them. The Port of Vancouver, which my colleague from Abbotsford mentioned, is probably the largest port in Canada, taking over $1 billion a day in economic services. Indigenous communities have been cut off from water, food and medicines, so people’s health is at stake as well.
We have seen what the federal government has done. The Prime Minister immediately called Premier Horgan and the four mayors of the most affected areas and told them we are here for them with anything they need. We, as a federal government, have been responding to what we have been asked for by the municipalities, communities and, of course, the Province of British Columbia.
My colleague, the Minister of Emergency Preparedness, has been speaking every single day with Minister Farnworth and the minister of transport, Minister Fleming, in British Columbia. There are talks going on and there is movement happening. The defence minister sent 500 troops to British Columbia to help with rebuilding, to help with dikes, to help move goods and services, and to help with supply chains and airlifting people and food to communities. This is about damage control. This is about taking care of the problems that are happening.
We should also talk about how the cost of rebuilding alone is going to be phenomenal. We want to make sure that when we build back, and I am going to use that hackneyed term, we will build back better. Let us make sure that the materials we use will be resilient and that they will not be damaged by water, floods or fire, and that they will be able to survive these disasters that are hitting the province so quickly, so that we can be resilient and not always having such enormous damage done.
We need to talk about the cost of rebuilding, the cost of preventing, the cost of mitigating and the cost of protecting communities from climate change. Before I talk about how the provinces have come together, I want to mention that the federal government, municipalities and every one of the governments are pulling in the same direction. We are all working together to make change, to protect and to move forward.
I want to talk a bit about the unsung heroes, the frontline workers, the firefighters, the police, the RCMP, all of the community organizations and volunteer groups helping their communities. Let us talk about the community people who have come forward.
We heard a story about a Sikh community suddenly bringing in food and medicine and whatever was needed. We have seen and heard about people renting, helping, adopting farm animals, helping with milking of cows. We have seen families feeding each other and taking each other into their homes. As everyone has said, that is what we do as Canadians. It shows that everyone is pulling together, not just governments but communities, industry and organizations. Anyone who can is coming out to help each other. That is not to mention the individuals across the country who have been donating money to the Red Cross.
We talk a lot about climate change. We do not have to talk about it anymore. The debate is over. It is here. We have seen the enemy. It is climate change, and it is fossil fuels. We need to talk about it, and we need to do something about it. The time for partisan debate is over. Let us no longer stand in the House and say we do not want to be partisan, yet debate any action on climate change.
Let us come together and take this action together for the sake of our communities, as British Columbians will know. Let us do this for the sake of communities that are yet to come. We see what is happening in the Atlantic provinces right now. Let us not have to talk about this anymore. Let us do what we need to do to prevent it. Let us act in this House, as one voice, and take the steps we need to take with climate change.
I will tell everyone why it should not be partisan and why we should care. It is because we all inhabit this planet together. Let us work together to protect it.
Mrs. Tracy Gray (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC):
Madam Speaker, since this is the first time that I am rising in this House during this Parliament, I would like to thank my husband and son for their unwavering support and also the constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country for entrusting me to continue to be their member of Parliament. It is truly an honour.
I am really happy to see that so many members of this House came together to have this emergency debate this evening. My riding of Kelowna—Lake Country is right next to some of the most affected areas. We have taken on thousands of people who are out of their homes, and I have really seen the spirit of Kelowna—Lake Country open up with volunteers and people in the community helping.
I would like to ask the member opposite about the most immediate needs that we have for repair and for helping people, specifically with respect to adaptation, because I did not hear her speak about adaptation. The immediate need is that we need to make sure that something like this, on this scale, does not happen again.
Hon. Hedy Fry:
Madam Speaker, that is an interesting question. I did speak about adaptation actually. I talked about protecting and preventing, putting back climate change to 1.5°C, and that we need to talk about it to get there. We need to therefore stop arguing about it, stop debating, and stop blocking it. Let us move forward to help it.
I also wanted to say that it is little acts of kindness that are going on in her community in Kelowna. It is little acts of kindness when people come together and move forward and help each other in times of need. This is wonderful, but we do not always want to depend on people coming together to help each other out. We need to do something. We are the legislators. We can do something about climate change.
Mr. Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the people first in my riding, where 100 people were displaced, many of them living in a trailer park. I want to thank the first responders, the community residents who stepped forward, the Arrowsmith Search and Rescue, the people who took risks when the Englishman River breached its bank.
There is a lot of fear for the people in our community right now. There is a forecast of an atmospheric river coming for this weekend as well. We have not remediated the impact of the storm that hit us.
We have not talked enough about wild salmon and the impact on wild salmon. We know that wild salmon have seen drought, forest fires, a warming ocean and the Big Bar landslide. We had a 3% return in the lowest salmon-bearing river in the world last year.
Will the member speak about the importance of the government urgently ensuring that there are monitors and that there is support for indigenous communities to see what we can do for habitat restoration for wild salmon, so we can preserve that iconic species, which is critical to our economy, our culture, our—
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):
The hon. member for Vancouver Centre.
Hon. Hedy Fry:
Madam Speaker, that was a question from a true British Columbian. There is an understanding of the problems that we face in British Columbia and an understanding of our culture and the iconic salmon. I think, in talking about indigenous communities, this government has stepped up and is working very closely with Minister Rankin in B.C., in getting water, food and medicines, and in protecting the indigenous communities in the region. That is all happening.
I also wanted to say that it not only the human cost of these tragedies that are concerning us. It is the cost of our wildlife. It is the cost of the salmon. It is the cost of our fisheries, and it is the cost of the fact that our oceans are undergoing a set of changes through climate change.
We need to talk once again. It all comes down to the bottom line: Let us deal with climate change, and let us deal with it now.
Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):
Madam Speaker, congratulations for your position once again in the chair.
To my hon. colleague for Vancouver Centre, knowing her medical background, one of the areas of infrastructure that we have not talked about that will need massive overhauls for adaptation to the climate crisis is our hospitals and our medical infrastructure. We had a recent study done on Vancouver Island looking at the Nanaimo hospital. We realized that during wildfires surgeries were cancelled because the air quality inside the hospitals was not adequate. The air conditioning did not meet the needs of heat dome situations.
Does the hon. member have any comments on that aspect of adaptation?
Hon. Hedy Fry:
Madam Speaker, I think this is really important to the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. One of the most important things in our hospitals and our intensive care units is that the resources working in those areas were completely beleaguered by COVID and the heat waves. We now see what is happening with the floods.
The important thing, as Theresa Tam, our chief public health officer, has said when looking at this issue, is that it is about looking at the ventilation in these ancient buildings. We need to look at how we can ensure that we have ventilation that is going to prevent the spread of disease. We also need to look at how to fast forward what our government promised in this last election to bring about primary care physicians and nurses so that they can be the human resources we need to work in these hospitals in these communities.