The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is looking for clarification from the province regarding the provision of public heating/cooling centres during bouts of extreme weather.
At its May 18 meeting, the board received a letter from B.C. Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma.
In the letter, addressed to municipalities and First Nations, the minister raises the subject of emergency preparedness and resources available to assist with potential emergencies.
“The impacts of extreme temperatures in summer and winter can be severe, and it is important that they be given due consideration as emergencies that should be planned for and mitigated,” reads the letter, which goes on to explain while “the establishment of cooling and warming centres are locally led,” the ministry is able to provide support by reimbursing eligible costs. The letter also lists funding and other resources available to local governments.
Asked if the regional district has accessed any of the mentioned funding or resources, CSRD administrator John MacLean said “we actively access all emergency grant opportunities available to us,” and that it has gone largely towards training, emergency operations centre activation and the FireSmart program.
MacLean and staff were concerned with the comment local governments would take the lead in the provision of heating and cooling centres.
“I don’t know how we would administer them. It’s always been our position that this is a health issue and it should be led by Interior Health,” said MacLean.
Directors expressed interest in learning more from the province on how to access funds to support heating and cooling upgrades for rural community centres, including the Falkland Community Hall where the May 18 board meeting took place.
“In our rural areas right now, especially in Area D, the only place we really have to offer cooling is our community halls, but to put in a cooling system here, we would definitely (need to) get direction as to where to access those kinds of funds,” said Electoral Area D director Dean Trumbley.
The board agreed a reply should be sent to the minister, as well as to Interior Health, stressing the regional district’s position and asking for more information.
MacLean added that in developing cooling centres, the CSRD would be responsible for ensuring the safety and security of those who use them.
“If we’re talking about something the size of the CSRD, heat or smoke or cold temperatures, the logistical ramifications of that are mind boggling and that’s part of the challenge, and that’s what I think we’ll try to address in the letter,” he said.