Looking back on the events of the 2013 floods in southern Alberta, Albertans are left with many unanswered questions.
If we are ever going to learn from the disastrous flooding so we can be better prepared in the future, we need the answers to these questions.
Why did early warning systems fail? What were the protocols for warning Albertans before the waters hit? What steps were taken in the last 10 years to mitigate flooding? What steps can be taken to improve responses in future emergencies?
Could the three tragic deaths due to the flooding have been avoided? What are the communications responsibilities of local and provincial governments during a state of emergency? Who is responsible for deciding evacuation policies, are the current protocols sufficient?
These unanswered questions are why the Wildrose Official Opposition called for a judge-led public inquiry into the critical operational failures that put Albertans needlessly at risk during the 2013 floods. Albertans want and deserve a judge-led public inquiry to investigate the government’s response so we will be better prepared for the next disaster.
Clearly, there are lessons to be learned from the 2013 floods and from the circumstances during the aftermath of flooding in High River. Much of what the government did to respond to the floods was done right, but significant failures in key areas of government responsibility left Albertans feeling frustrated and hurt.
The Wildrose Official Opposition caucus submitted a list of 50 questions to government that we believe a public inquiry should address. (To see the list, visit www.wildrose.ca).
Wildrose has led the post-flood discussion with a Preliminary Flood Report that contained 22 recommendations to prepare for future floods. While the 2013 floods could not have been prevented in their entirety, the failure of the provincial government to heed repeated warnings and prepare for severe flooding resulted in far more damage and hardship than was necessary.
Wildrose Official Opposition recommendations included implemented the 2006 Flood Mitigation Report and a flood mitigation infrastructure plan to help rebuild the vast majority of homes and businesses without forced relocation. The Wildrose plan calls for assisting residents in areas that cannot be made safe in relocating to safer areas and a review of Alberta’s early warning system. The government should also improve Alberta’s financial preparedness for future disasters by rebuilding the “Rainy Day” fund and budgeting annually for disaster response and recovery.
The bottom line here is that we must learn from High River. It’s naive to think something like this won’t happen again. It will. Now, it’s just a matter of being the best prepared we can be. To get there, we need answers. We need a public inquiry.