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Learning from High River: Wildrose calls for a public inquiry into flood response

HIGH RIVER, AB (August 1, 2013): The provincial government must launch a judge-led public inquiry into the response to flooding in southern Alberta in order to find answers to dozens of questions emerging in light of critical operational failures that put Albertans needlessly at risk, Wildrose Official Opposition said today. 

Today, Danielle Smith, Leader of the Wildrose Official Opposition, wrote to Premier Alison Redford and asked her to call a public inquiry into almost fifty unanswered questions on the top of Albertans’ minds regarding five key areas: (1) Steps that were taken pre-flood on flood and disaster preparedness; (2) Early warnings of this flood and early warning procedures and their sufficiency; (3) Preliminary responses to the flood on the part of municipalities and the provincial government in the rescue phase of emergency operations; (4) Communications with Albertans during the flood and in the post-flood period; and (5) The interactions between emergency operation centres and the broader community through the post-flood recovery period of emergency operations. Smith said there are lessons to be learned from the flooding in High River that can and should be applied to the entire province in the event of future disasters. “We must learn from High River, and to learn from High River, we need answers,” Smith said. “Much of what the government has done to respond to the floods has been done right, but significant failures in key areas of government responsibility have left Albertans feeling frustrated and confused. Albertans want and deserve a judge-led public inquiry to delve into these key areas of government responsibility to get the answers so that we will all be better prepared for the next disaster.” The Wildrose submission to government questions the apparent delay in providing warning to flooded communities, the absence of mitigation and preparedness steps taken in the last decade, and the difficulty in returning residents to their homes in a timely manner. Further questions concern the delegation of authority during the flood crisis, the actions of the RCMP in their search and seizure of legal firearms as well as breaking down doors with forced entry, and the often abysmal communications protocols. Smith said while it is too early to fully assess the Disaster Recovery Program and ongoing mitigation efforts as a result of this year’s flooding, an inquiry can determine the government’s effectiveness in each of the five areas identified by the Wildrose Official Opposition. “The government’s lack of answers and poor communication has many Albertans rightly worried about preparedness for future floods and emergencies. I hope the government will step up to the plate and hold this public inquiry to ensure Albertans are better protected the next time disaster strikes,” Smith said.