Eby ‘profoundly worried’ about B.C. fire season as billions prepped for contingencies

Eby 'profoundly worried' about B.C. fire season as billions prepped for contingencies
B.C. Premier David Eby speaks during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. Eby says he is

Premier David Eby says he is “profoundly worried” about the potentially “terrible” upcoming wildfire season, a major reason why the province has set aside $10.6 billion in contingency funds over the next three years.

Eby says parts of British Columbia, such as the Peace River, East Kootenay and Upper Fraser regions, remain severely dry, and about 100 wildfires are still burning this winter from last year’s record-breaking fire season.

He says they are two factors that contribute to the need for the contingency fund for spending uncertainties in yesterday’s provincial budget.

Eby says the province is “standing up an army of firefighters” in preparation for this season’s wildfires, with about 1,000 people already applying to join the wildfire team this year.

The premier also says the province is leasing aircraft and expanding infrastructure to allow for firefighters to conduct operations such as aerial missions at night, enhancing B.C.’s capacity to fight wildfires around the clock.

Eby spoke earlier today about the new budget’s impact on businesses with members of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, and the group gave the budget a “C” letter-grade due to what it calls “relief for today” and “concern for tomorrow” relating to items such as the deficit growing to $7.9 billion.

Ken Peacock, chief economist of the Business Council of B.C., says the council doesn’t agree with the plan to run large operating deficits when the economy is near full capacity and people are struggling to pay their bills because of inflation.

The Board of Trade says it welcomes the government’s decision to raise the threshold on the Employer Health Tax but it also has concerns about the deficit and debt forecasts.

The budget also includes a commitment to provide one free cycle of invitro fertilization to anyone in B.C. who wants the opportunity to start a family, a plan Kristan Ash of the Midwives Association of B.C. says will mean delivering many wonderful new babies.

Opposition BC United Leader Kevin Falcon says the government is spending recklessly and the budget’s deficit and debt forecasts could trigger a credit rating downgrade.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2024.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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