Saanich-Gulf Islands did experience flood damage, no area unspared

Letter to the editor: Saanich-Gulf Islands did experience flood damage, no area unspared

Originally published in the Hill Times, December 6th, 2021

Thank you for your editorial, “Climate change is a horror story,” (The Hill Times, Nov. 29) focus on the emergency debate on the climate emergency and the recent devastating damage experienced
in British Columbia.

Allow me to make a small correction. Saanich-Gulf Islands did experience damage, while my speech focused on the massive landslides and major highway closures on the mainland that eclipsed damage in my home riding. But we certainly experienced damage.

Recently, we had a Zoom meeting with the local government representatives from the Gulf Islands (known as Trustees in the Islands Trust) and our wonderful MLA, Adam Olsen, who organized the meeting.

In a review of all our areas of responsibility, no area was unspared. Roads on the peninsula were closed, such as West Saanich Road while Chalet Road collapsed. As well, the Gulf Islands were impacted. Saturna Island experienced extensive damage at the Narvaez Bay Road. The people living at East Point were cut off. On Salt Spring, the main road between Ganges and Fulford Harbour (two key population and transit points) was closed and extensive damage was done to Isabella Point Road. So too were Galiano Island, Mayne Island, and Pender impacted by flooding. All the sewage systems of my electoral district were stressed.

As ever, local community members have rallied round and are working on better local planning for emergency preparedness. We know that even if Canada started living up to promises to cut
emissions, worse is to come. The horrors of the heat dome, the wildfires and the massive flooding have all occurred with a global average temperature increase of 1.1 degrees C. The world is watching as any chance of keeping that increase to no more than 1.5 degrees C—the Paris Agreement target—is slipping away.

We must move away from fossil fuels and expand natural carbon sequestration as fast as possible—while also investing in adaptation measures to reduce the damage the climate emergency will inflict. We need to move faster in transitioning to renewable energy, protecting workers in the fossil fuel sector, rebuilding infrastructure that can better cope with climate events, plant crops that are drought resistant, adapt our health care system to a more dangerous climate and on and on. And do it all at once.

We have no choice.

Elizabeth May
Green Parliamentary Leader and MP
Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.

Original Editorial, November 29th, 2021

On a cold and rainy Monday morning last week, MPs came back to Ottawa to open up the new Parliament. But the global pandemic wasn’t the talk of the week, it was the devastating floods in British Columbia. It dominated debates in the House all week as MPs whose ridings were devastated by the floods described what they saw. MPs also held an emergency debate on the floods which happened two weeks ago and affected the Fraser Valley, the Fraser Canyon, and the B.C. Interior, killing four people, breaching dikes, damaging thousands of homes and businesses, major rail lines and highways, and displacing nearly 20,000 people.

Conservative MP Ed Fast, whose Abbotsford riding was hit hard, said the torrential rains were like a “horror” that flooded thousands of homes and businesses, drowned farm animals, washed out highways and bridges, and water and sewer systems. “The scene in Abbotsford is one of unimaginable destruction. Countless families have been displaced. Dikes have been breached, pump stations overwhelmed and untold property lost as the carnage swept across our city,” he said on Nov. 24 in the House. “The damage will take years to assess and is in the billions of dollars.”

Conservative MP Brad Vis, who represents Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, said his riding had already suffered the devastating forest fires on June 29, when “Lytton burned to the ground” and was now dealing with the aftermath of floods. “Now floods and mudslides have destroyed critical infrastructure and private property in every corner of my riding in the last few weeks. My constituents in Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon are hurting. B.C. is hurting.”

Conservative MP Dan Albas, who represents Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, said some of his constituents are now “in a race against time” to rebuild their lives before winter freeze sets in, meanwhile, sewer and water systems aren’t working and there is no gas or electricity in some places.

Green Party MP Elizabeth May, whose Saanich-Gulf Islands riding was not affected, told the House about her stepdaughter who was at her husband’s family farm in Ashcroft, B.C., last summer when there was a heat dome in B.C. and the temperature hit 50 C. She said her stepdaughter nearly died and had brain edema. She said the 1,600 B.C. wildfires from April to September destroyed more than 868,000 hectares of land, which she said also contributed to last week’s floods. “The ground had become hydrophobic, meaning it expelled the water that fell on the ground. The ground could not absorb the water; the ground repelled it. The flooding was worse because of the fires.”

This government, which made a commitment in last week’s Throne Speech, and this Parliament will have to step up and finally treat climate change like the emergency and the horror that it is. The country has to work together with the provinces to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to make the transition to renewable energy as quickly as possible. We have to avoid runaway global warming.

Right now, there are 500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who will remain in British Columbia for as long as needed and the prime minister has promised emergency and infrastructure funding to help rebuild the devastated province.