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Alberta

Alberta bans fires in provincial parks, protected areas, hiring 200 new firefighters, increasing fines & more

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8 minute read

The Albert government is taking a number of steps to reduce the risk of spring wildfires while protecting municipalities.

Alberta Wildfire is hiring 200 additional firefighters, invoking a fire ban, implementing off-highway vehicle (OHV) restrictions, increasing fine violations and funding $20 million more in community FireSmart initiatives, all to prepare for the upcoming wildfire season during COVID-19.

Alberta Parks is also instituting a fire ban in all provincial parks and protected areas.

These early preparedness measures will ensure the province can effectively focus resources where they are needed most in the event of multiple emergencies happening at the same time.

Typically, the wildfire hazard is highest in Alberta in late April through May, when fuel like trees and grasses have extremely low moisture content after the snow has melted.

A massive wildfire swept through parts of Fort McMurray in May 2016, leading to the evacuation of the population and billions in damages. Photo Courtesy/Government of Alberta

More than a million acres burned last year and 71 per cent of wildfires were human-caused and entirely preventable. With provincial resources currently stretched due to COVID-19, these preventative measures will better equip Alberta’s response to spring wildfires this year.

“Albertans are tough and we’re all doing what we can to keep each other safe during COVID-19. With Alberta’s wildfire season matching with the expected peak of COVID-19, we have to take extra precautions to ensure our response efforts are well-funded and planned out. This spring, we may find ourselves facing multiple disasters at once. With all these measures, we will be prepared.” Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

Increased firefighting resources

An additional $5 million investment is being made to hire and train 200 high-quality firefighters to assist with the provincial wildfire suppression this season.

The fire ban and OHV restriction are temporary measures, which will remain in place only as long as required to combat the wildfire risk.

More than 800 seasonal firefighters will join 370 year-round staff at Alberta Wildfire. These resources are hired at one of the 10 Forest Areas, and are moved throughout the Forest Protection Area as required.

Fire ban and OHV restriction

A fire ban in the Forest Protection Area, provincial parks and protected areas, as well as a recreational OHV ban on Crown land in the Forest Protection Area, will come into effect April 15.

Alberta’s Forest Protection Area covers almost 60 per cent of Alberta, most of the northern half of the province and the western border, excluding federal parks.

The government recognizes that many Albertans use OHVs and respects this valid activity. At the same time, the government must take into account limitations and manage risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hot mufflers can potentially start wildfires.

The fire ban and OHV restriction are temporary measures, which will remain in place only as long as required to combat the wildfire risk. Measures may later be adjusted to take into account the needs of specific regions.

All fire permits will be suspended in this area, and landowners are responsible for ensuring any holdover fires are extinguished by this time.

Indigenous people may use OHVs on public land for traditional purposes. Use of OHVs on private lands, for industrial use (for example forestry, agriculture and energy) and by emergency responders is also permitted.

A recreational off-highway vehicle (OHV) ban on Crown land in the Forest Protection These OHV restrictions are only temporary measures.

Higher fines

Fines are being doubled from $300 to $600 for non-compliance with a fire ban and from $600 to $1,200 for non-compliance with an OHV restriction. With 71 per cent of last year’s wildfires started by people, these fine increases reflect the seriousness of the preventative measure Albertans must take to prevent wildfires.

Individuals found contravening a fire ban or OHV restriction will be subject to increased fines, starting April 15, and could be held liable for all costs associated with fighting a wildfire. Last year, more than $600 million was spent fighting wildfires in Alberta.

These fines are in addition to the existing penalties for arson under the Criminal Code.

“Our province is taking steps to prepare for wildfires and other hazards this spring and summer by increasing our emergency response capacity. This means that while we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will also be ready to respond to other emergencies as they may arise.” Kaycee Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs

Increased FireSmart funding

FireSmart will receive a funding boost of up to $20 million to support vegetation management in the province. The department will work with municipalities to ensure these funds are used this fiscal year.

FireSmart helps to reduce the wildfire risk to Albertans, their homes and communities. The FireSmart program includes grants to support the most at-risk communities in Alberta, including Indigenous communities.

This additional funding will help mitigate wildfire damages and losses in more Alberta communities by creating FireSmart zones around at-risk communities to reduce wildfire hazards.

Government emergency response

To increase response capacity and prepare for multiple and concurrent disasters, such as wildfires and floods, the Provincial Operations Centre has been reinforced by the creation of a Pandemic Response Planning Team. This team will help coordinate government’s medium and long-term response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quick facts

  • For more information on wildfires, download the Alberta Wildfire app.
  • Up-to-date information on fire restrictions, fire bans, OHV restrictions and general wildfire information is available at albertafirebans.ca or by calling 1-866-FYI-FIRE (1-866-394-3473).
  • To report a wildfire, call 310-FIRE (310-3473) toll-free, from anywhere in Alberta.
  • Most new seasonal staff will be on-the-ground firefighters, with wages between $22 and $28 per hour.
  • Fire bans and OHV restrictions have proven to be effective prevention tools in reducing the number of human-caused wildfires.
  • Anyone found to be non-compliant with a fire ban or OHV restriction may also have to go to court and may receive a fine up to $100,000. Anyone found to be the cause of a wildfire may be liable for the costs associated with extinguishing the fire.
  • FireSmart is a program that requires cooperation of all people living, working and playing in the forest.

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Alberta

Jordan Peterson Interviews Alberta Premier Danielle Smith – Preview

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This is a clip from tomorrow’s podcast release with Premier Danielle Smith. In it, she and Dr. Peterson discuss Trudeau’s stance against fossil fuels and the unreliability of so-called “renewables.”

Dr. Peterson’s extensive catalog is available now on DailyWire+: https://bit.ly/3KrWbS8

ALL LINKS: https://linktr.ee/drjordanbpeterson

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Alberta

Provinces should be cautious about cost-sharing agreements with Ottawa

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From the Fraser Institute

By Tegan Hill and Jake Fuss

According to Premier Danielle Smith, Alberta will withdraw from the federal government’s dental care plan by 2026 mainly because the plan would duplicate coverage already provided to many Albertans (although she plans to negotiate unconditional funding in lieu of being in the program). Indeed, all provinces should be wary of entering into such agreements as history has shown that Ottawa can reduce or eliminate funding at any time, leaving the provinces holding the bag.

In the 1990s, for instance, the federal government reduced health and social transfers to the provinces amid a fiscal crisis fuelled by decades of unrestrained spending and persistent deficits (and worsened by high interest rates). Gross federal debt increased from $38.9 billion in 1970/71 to $615.9 billion in 1993/94, at which point debt interest costs consumed roughly $1 in every $3 of federal government revenue.

In response to this debt crisis, the Chrétien Liberal government reduced spending across nearly all federal departments and programs. Over a three-year period to 1996/97, health and social transfers to the provinces were 51 per cent ($41.0 billion) less than what the provinces expected based on previous transfers. In other words, the provinces suddenly got a lot less money from Ottawa than they anticipated.

This should serve as a warning for the provinces who may find themselves on the hook for Ottawa’s big spending today. In the case of dental care, an area of provincial jurisdiction, the Trudeau government has earmarked $4.4 billion  annually for the provinces on an ongoing basis. However, any change in federal priorities or federal finances could swing the financial burden from Ottawa to the provinces to maintain the program.

The current state of federal finances only heightens this risk to the provinces. The federal government has run uninterrupted budget deficits since 2007/08, with total federal debt climbing from $707.3 billion in 2007/08 to a projected $2.1 trillion in 2024/25. The current government—or perhaps a future reform-minded government focused on balancing the budget—could reduce transfers to the provinces.

The Trudeau government has committed to significant new funding in areas of provincial jurisdiction, but provincial policymakers would do well to understand the risks of entering into such agreements. Ottawa can unilaterally reduce or eliminate funding at any point, leaving provinces to either assume the unexpected financial burden through higher taxes or additional borrowing, or curtail the programs.

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