Premier David Eby has pledged almost $86 million to help local communities with housing, firefighting and travel expenses for cancer patients.
“We face a lot of challenges right now,” Eby said, citing housing, addiction issues and transportation.
The NDP premier made the promises in his address on the final day of the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference held this week in Vancouver.
The pie is split as follows: $61 million to assist cities on the housing file; $4.75 million to support and provide firefighters; and $20 million to assist cancer patients who need to travel for care.
He said the government would be moving forward with a task force to examine this year’s forest fires, some of which are still burning as people remain under evacuation orders. He told the crowd civil servants would be embedded with the independent review, and that those people would ensure any findings are implemented immediately in preparation for the 2024 fire season.
"Throughout this year's unprecedented wildfire season, community and volunteer firefighters have stepped up and shown tremendous commitment, leadership and bravery," Eby said. "Every day, we depend on firefighters and we need to ensure they have everything they need to do their life-saving work.
"That's why we're helping rural, First Nation and volunteer fire departments upgrade their equipment and access enhanced training," Eby said. "This will strengthen community firefighting capacity in every corner of our province and ensure all British Columbians get the help they need when disaster strikes."
Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said people rely on volunteers and local fire crews to keep themselves and their families safe.
“By strengthening community firefighting capacity, we are ensuring that our province and the people who live here are protected in the face of an emergency,” Farnworth said.
The funding has been divided into three portions:
• $1.4 million to the UBCM for community firefighting training and the purchase of new or replacement fire equipment such as fire hoses and first-aid kits;
• $1.75 million has been provided to the Fire Chiefs' Association of British Columbia to support rural communities and First Nation fire departments by providing regional access to joint fire training for fire services; and,
• $1.6 million has been provided to the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit for a targeted marketing campaign focused on segments of the population over-represented in fire-related incidents, such as youth and seniors.
Farnworth said the funding builds on the $6.3 million provided to more than 100 volunteer and composite fire departments earlier this year for equipment and training.
Cancer treatment funding assistance
Eby said $20 million would be provided to the Canadian Cancer Society in order to assist people travelling to get cancer treatment.
“The last thing they need to be worrying about it logistics to get treatment,” he said.
He said the initial investment of $20 million to enhance medical-travel supports provided by the society and Hope Air will support more people in rural and remote areas.
He said the investment would help more people will be able to travel and get cancer treatment in one of the six BC Cancer centres or at one of the 41 Community Oncology Network sites throughout the province.
"The size and landscape of the province can make it challenging to deliver health care in rural communities," said Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for rural health. "Some medical procedures are best delivered by specialists at dedicated medical centres that provide specialized care far from many communities.
"That's why we're going to help cover travel-related costs — including transportation, accommodation and meals — during a patient's cancer treatment," Rice said.