B.C. Budget 2024 fails to address the cycle of crisis on climate-related disasters

February 28, 2024

By: Dene Moore

Drought. Fire. Flood. Repeat.

British Columbia is trapped in a worsening cycle of climate disaster but you wouldn’t guess that from a look at this year’s provincial budget. 

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy acknowledged the increasing frequency of climate-related disaster in her budget speech, but of $89 billion in spending in the 2024-2025 budget released last week, a little more than $405 million – and that over four years – was earmarked for climate emergencies.

That includes: $175 million for wildfire response and recovery and almost $235 million for flood mitigation and drought resiliency. It’s not enough. 

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy revealed B.C.’s budget highlights on February 22

Last year B.C. suffered the worst year of drought on record. Farmers ran out of hay, wild salmon died in shallow waterways, and drinking water resources in several communities reached dangerously low levels. It was also the most destructive wildfire season in B.C.’s recorded history, with more than 2.84 million hectares burned. 

And the drought continues. So far this winter, snowpack levels are well below normal in every river basin in B.C. On average, snowpack is 39 per cent below normal, worse than last winter when it was 19 per cent below normal.

It doesn’t bode well for summer. 

“We need to climate-proof our watersheds, for the sake of our fish and wildlife, and for our own safety and security,” said our executive director, Aaron Hill, on the eve of budget day. “Bolstering our natural defences against flooding, drought and wildfire will take a massive, wartime-scale mobilization of resources, and we are hoping to see that in today’s budget.” 

We did not. Watershed Watch was looking for:

  • A major boost to the new B.C. Watershed Security Fund, which at its current level provides just $5 million annually;
  • Long-term funding for the B.C. Watershed Strategy, including funds for a B.C. Watershed Security Officer;
  • Multi-year funding for the B.C. Flood Strategy;
  • Money to enforce the new B.C. Water Sustainability Act, including a dedicated enforcement and prosecutions office;
  • Significant funding for watershed and salmon rehabilitation, along with a commitment to use all tools in the provincial arsenal to pressure Ottawa to keep its promise to remove open net-pen salmon farms from B.C. coastal waters.

It will ultimately cost us much more to let this cycle of crisis continue.

Economic losses from the 2021 flooding exceeded $2 billion, according to global risk management and insurance agency Aon, and a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said the flood, heat dome, wildfires, landslides and other climate disasters that year cost between $10.6 and $17.1 billion.

Wildfire response alone cost the province almost $1 billion last year. Add to that $720 million in insured losses, said the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

With a potentially devastating summer ahead, the budget fell short of the investment we needed, said Coree Tull, co-chair of the BC Watershed Security Coalition, of which Watershed Watch is a member. The coalition was pleased with regional investments, like $14 million to replace the 50-year-old Cowichan Weir and $83 million for an Agriculture Water Infrastructure program, but it fell short.

“B.C.’s new climate reality is either too little water when we need it or too much water when we don’t,” Tull said in a statement. “While it is not too late to get ahead of climate-fueled water disasters, Budget 2024 fails to allocate the proactive, province-wide funds needed to keep communities safe in the face of this cycle of water crises.” 

There is a provincial election this fall and we at Watershed Watch want watershed security on the political radar so the next B.C. budget delivers, no matter who wins.

“This budget was a let-down, but sitting around moping isn’t going to make our watersheds any safer from climate disasters. It’s an election year and new commitments will be made in the coming months. The best thing we can do now is continue to mobilize around the vision of safer, more secure watersheds with thriving fish and wildlife. That way, no matter who forms the next B.C. government in a few months, they will have a legion of watershed defenders to answer to.”

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B.C. Budget 2024 fails to address the cycle of crisis on climate-related disasters

February 28, 2024

By: Dene Moore

Drought. Fire. Flood. Repeat.

British Columbia is trapped in a worsening cycle of climate disaster but you wouldn’t guess that from a look at this year’s provincial budget. 

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy acknowledged the increasing frequency of climate-related disaster in her budget speech, but of $89 billion in spending in the 2024-2025 budget released last week, a little more than $405 million – and that over four years – was earmarked for climate emergencies.

That includes: $175 million for wildfire response and recovery and almost $235 million for flood mitigation and drought resiliency. It’s not enough. 

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy revealed B.C.’s budget highlights on February 22

Last year B.C. suffered the worst year of drought on record. Farmers ran out of hay, wild salmon died in shallow waterways, and drinking water resources in several communities reached dangerously low levels. It was also the most destructive wildfire season in B.C.’s recorded history, with more than 2.84 million hectares burned. 

And the drought continues. So far this winter, snowpack levels are well below normal in every river basin in B.C. On average, snowpack is 39 per cent below normal, worse than last winter when it was 19 per cent below normal.

It doesn’t bode well for summer. 

“We need to climate-proof our watersheds, for the sake of our fish and wildlife, and for our own safety and security,” said our executive director, Aaron Hill, on the eve of budget day. “Bolstering our natural defences against flooding, drought and wildfire will take a massive, wartime-scale mobilization of resources, and we are hoping to see that in today’s budget.” 

We did not. Watershed Watch was looking for:

  • A major boost to the new B.C. Watershed Security Fund, which at its current level provides just $5 million annually;
  • Long-term funding for the B.C. Watershed Strategy, including funds for a B.C. Watershed Security Officer;
  • Multi-year funding for the B.C. Flood Strategy;
  • Money to enforce the new B.C. Water Sustainability Act, including a dedicated enforcement and prosecutions office;
  • Significant funding for watershed and salmon rehabilitation, along with a commitment to use all tools in the provincial arsenal to pressure Ottawa to keep its promise to remove open net-pen salmon farms from B.C. coastal waters.

It will ultimately cost us much more to let this cycle of crisis continue.

Economic losses from the 2021 flooding exceeded $2 billion, according to global risk management and insurance agency Aon, and a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said the flood, heat dome, wildfires, landslides and other climate disasters that year cost between $10.6 and $17.1 billion.

Wildfire response alone cost the province almost $1 billion last year. Add to that $720 million in insured losses, said the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

With a potentially devastating summer ahead, the budget fell short of the investment we needed, said Coree Tull, co-chair of the BC Watershed Security Coalition, of which Watershed Watch is a member. The coalition was pleased with regional investments, like $14 million to replace the 50-year-old Cowichan Weir and $83 million for an Agriculture Water Infrastructure program, but it fell short.

“B.C.’s new climate reality is either too little water when we need it or too much water when we don’t,” Tull said in a statement. “While it is not too late to get ahead of climate-fueled water disasters, Budget 2024 fails to allocate the proactive, province-wide funds needed to keep communities safe in the face of this cycle of water crises.” 

There is a provincial election this fall and we at Watershed Watch want watershed security on the political radar so the next B.C. budget delivers, no matter who wins.

“This budget was a let-down, but sitting around moping isn’t going to make our watersheds any safer from climate disasters. It’s an election year and new commitments will be made in the coming months. The best thing we can do now is continue to mobilize around the vision of safer, more secure watersheds with thriving fish and wildlife. That way, no matter who forms the next B.C. government in a few months, they will have a legion of watershed defenders to answer to.”

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