OTTAWA — As the House of Commons returns to work for the first time in months, opposition parties are pushing for an immediate debate on climate change and the need to rebuild British Columbia following devastating floods.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Monday his party intends to request an emergency debate as soon as possible to get a handle on the government's plans to combat the climate change emergency but also on the need to better prepare Canadian communities for the extreme weather they can expect to see in the months and years to come.
"Given that this type of extreme weather is more common, we need to see investments from the federal government, real proactive investments to make communities more resilient, more prepared for what is now becoming more common," Singh said.
B.C. is bracing for more extreme weather a week after an "atmospheric river" pummelled the province with heavy rains triggering deadly mudslides and widespread flooding. An "atmospheric river" is a narrow band of warm, moisture-filled air that can drop a lot of precipitation over the course of a few hours or even a few days.
The one that hit B.C. Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 dropped nearly 300 mm of rain in just two days on parts of the Fraser Valley and B.C.'s Southern Interior, washing out roads and rail lines. At least four people died in mudslides and a fifth is still missing.
Another atmospheric river hit the north and central coasts Sunday and was moving south on Monday.
The province is working as fast as it can to rebuild and repair critical infrastructure from the first storm, including major highways that cut off land links between the Lower Mainland of B.C., including the Port of Vancouver, and the rest of Canada.
Ontario Liberal MP Anthony Rota had barely finished his acceptance speech after being re-elected as House of Commons Speaker Monday when he was hit with requests for the emergency debates.
B.C. NDP MP Richard Cannings told Rota he wanted to be able to present his request for an emergency debate Wednesday, the first day of normal proceedings, after Monday's speaker election and Tuesday's speech from the throne.
"All Canadians, and especially British Columbians, need to know how the government has responded to this disaster, what further actions it intends to take to restore the land transportation network and communities in B.C. and how it intends to ensure infrastructure and communities across Canada are protected from this level of destruction," he said.
B.C. Conservative MPs Ed Fast and Dan Albas said an emergency debate on rebuilding B.C.is needed given the scope of the disaster and the federal aid needed to make the repairs.
“The return of Parliament allows for British Columbians to see the House of Commons seized with this crisis and working together on the way forward, and this will be particularly important as the damage is assessed and rebuilding begins," they said in a joint statement.
The Liberals are expected to include a heavy focus on climate in the throne speech.
The Liberal re-election platform included a number of promises for adapting to the changing climate, including a vague promise to "support retrofits and upgrades to protect against extreme weather for homes and communities. It also promised better flood maps, and a low-cost national flood insurance program for homeowners who don't have adequate insurance protection.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2021.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press