Forecasters warn B.C. of hot summer, as province offers more free air conditioners

Forecasters warn B.C. of hot summer, as province offers more free air conditioners
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A young boy is silhouetted as he jumps off the pier at Crescent Beach into Boundary Bay, in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

British Columbia’s government is tripling a program that offers free air conditioners to people with low incomes as forecasters say the province should prepare for hotter-than-normal temperatures in June.

Minister of Energy Josie Osborne told a news briefing that the program, launched last year and managed by the Crown power utility, BC Hydro, had already handed out 6,000 air conditioners and the government was prepared to fund another 19,000 or so.

“We know that there’s more work that needs to be done, and we’re facing another hot, dry summer, and we don’t want anyone to be left behind,” she said.

The announcement came as an outlook from Environment Canada said the first week of June will be cooler than normal across most of B.C. but the rest of the month is likely to feature above-normal temperatures across the province.

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The longer-term outlook for June to August said there was a high probability of above-normal temperatures across the B.C. Interior and “moderate probabilities” of near-normal temperatures on the coast.

Health Minister Adrian Dix told the briefing on Friday that the province’s residential tenancy branch had updated its air-conditioning policy to make it clear that landlords cannot ban air-conditioning units in rental agreements “without a rational basis, such as a safety concern.”

“We are strongly encouraging strata, corporations and landlords to work together with their tenants to ensure air-conditioning units are safely installed to keep people cool and safe,” Dix said.

June’s outlook indicated a probability of below-normal precipitation across the B.C. Interior as the month unfolds.

The forecast said officials would only know about individual precipitation events in the days leading up to them.

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Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said people should prepare for the heat by identifying those in their family who are more at risk and know where they can go to cool down.

“Early in the season, we haven’t yet had time to acclimatize to the heat, we’re more likely to experience ill-health effects from the heat when it comes,” she said.

She said the elderly, young people, those with chronic illnesses and people who are pregnant, are particularly at risk.

“We want everybody in our province, and visitors to B.C., to be able to enjoy the summer ahead, to spend time outdoors, to spend time with family and friends enjoying everything we have to offer,” she said.

“But we need to do that safely and the time to prepare is now.”

— By Ashley Joannou in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2024.

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