The Canadian Forces has decided to start charging municipalities and provinces to cover the costs whenever the military is called upon to help in emergencies such as floods and wildfires, according to internal Defence Department documents obtained by Postmedia News. Military officials say federal budget cuts are to blame for the move, which ends a 15-year practice of waiving efforts to recover such costs and could force communities and provinces to think twice before calling the Canadian Forces for help.
Supporting provincial and municipal governments during natural disasters in Canada has long been considered one of military’s most important missions.
In the past two years, Canadian soldiers have helped fight flooding in Manitoba and Quebec and evacuated, housed and fed residents of northern Ontario communities threatened by forest fires.
The costs borne by the military varied from nearly $4 million for the flooding in Quebec and $3.8 million for flood mitigation in Manitoba, to $51,000 for evacuating and feeding the threatened communities in Northern Ontario.
The assistance was considered critical for protecting lives and livelihoods — and earned the Canadian Forces high praise from across the country.
“Manitobans will never forget the unwavering support of the Canadian Forces during this unprecedented natural disaster,” Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said in May 2011 after floods hit that province.
“Without hesitation, the Canadian Forces were here for us when we needed them and with their help we were able to avoid catastrophe on the Assiniboine River. Although the flood fight is not over yet, particularly on Lake Manitoba, military assistance has helped us get through the worst.”
But such good will may be in short supply going forward as provinces and municipalities, which have received help from the Canadian Forces without cost for more than a decade, will now be forced to pay for such assistance.
Military to charge provinces, communities for disaster relief | canada.com