Council critical of emergency management change

By ROY WOOD

Osoyoos is very unhappy with proposals for an arbitrary assumption of control by the province over emergency management plans and excess apprehension powers granted to police in emergency situations.

Mayor Sue McKortoff is sending a sharply worded letter to Minister of State for Emergency Management Naomi Yamamoto objecting to two proposals in a recent discussion paper on changes to the Emergency Programs Act:

  • To give the minister the right to arbitrarily order a local authority to change its emergency plan; and
  • To allow police to apprehend anyone who resists an evacuation order issued under a declared state of emergency.

The mayor and council are also disappointed with what it sees as an unreasonably short time in which responses to the discussion paper are required.

The town received a letter from the province on January 12 and must respond by Feb. 19.

“(W)e hope that in future the province will consider the needs of local government and provide a longer review period,” the letter reads.

Regarding the new power proposed for the minister, the letter says proposal doesn’t provide a rationale for the change and seems to be an “arbitrary empowerment.”

As well, such provincially mandated changes to the emergency plans could be time consuming and expensive for small municipalities.

There is no mention of an appeal process or even further consultations with the ministry.

“It appears that the province does not have faith in the local governments to have plans that are specific to the needs of their communities.”

Under the current regulation, the minister has the power to review and recommend changes to local plans.

As to the proposal to give police the power to apprehend anyone who refuses to obey an evacuation order, the letter points out that some people prefer to stay near their homes and protect their livestock despite the risks.

The letter asks several questions, including what will be the security provisions for properties left unprotected when the owners are forcibly removed and what will be the liability of local governments for property damage following such an apprehension.

The provision also allows the province or the local authority to order a person so apprehended to pay costs associated with the arrest.

“How will the province or local government collect the costs … (from) the person apprehended?” the letter asks.

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