This article first appeared in the national Sun newspaper chain. It is now free for reprinting.
British Columbia has been battered by rain, mudslides and flooding, and Ottawa is going to have to go even deeper into debt to help it rebuild.
Leaders are supposed to save for rainy days to manage an emergency, because that’s what responsible people do.
But the federal government has been spending irresponsibly.
B.C. needs to rebuild highways, bridges and flood prevention pumps.
Some of those repairs will be the responsibility of the province and we’re already more than $77 billion in provincial debt. Before COVID-19, Premier John Horgan’s government was balancing the operational budget. The debt was still going up, but the books were in decent shape.
In times of disaster, a province should be able to turn to the federal government for solid assistance, but right now that will be like getting your shopping-addicted uncle to pay for your groceries. He will do it, but he’ll put it on his fourth credit card that isn’t quite maxed out.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has nearly doubled Canada’s pre-COVID debt to more than $1 trillion.
While COVID-19 has added to the debt, Trudeau was already on a spending bender beforehand. In 2018, the feds spent more money than in any year of the Second World War, the Korean War or the recessions, per person and adjusted for inflation.
Trudeau spent about $12.6 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline, after strangling Kinder Morgan’s approved project. The company was going to pay the bills, but taxpayers were left holding the bag.
The failed Pheonix payroll system is somewhat of a shared responsibility with the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper, but Trudeau’s team spent more than $2 billion on the mess so far, and they even gave the bureaucrats responsible for it big bonuses.
Trudeau has spent more than $11 milllion on the Mission Cultural fund, a pot of money used to fly chefs around the world and put sex toys on display in Germany.
It’s not wise to buy a big screen TV every month for years, because eventually your basement will flood, your furnace is going to quit and you’re going to have to pay that bill.
Governments must not waste money on foolish things, because eventually times will go bad, and we will need that money for emergencies.
This is an actual emergency.
Eastern readers can imagine the ports of Montreal and Halifax cut off. Now smash the highways, collapse the bridges and cover the railways with mudslides. Flood the farmland from Glencoe to London, and evacuate Napanee.
That’s what happened in B.C.
Four major highways in the southern part of the province are squeezed mountain ranges at the small town of Hope. All four highways were washed out by flooding or covered in landslides. About 2,000 people were stranded there for five days.
Search-and-Rescue crews saved people trapped on mountainsides between mudslides and five people died. The town of Merritt and most of Princeton were evacuated.
The Coquihalla Highway, the mountain pass featured on the TV show Highway Through Hell, has about 8,000 transport trucks use it per day. It was severely damaged and store shelves emptied across the province. It will take months to fix it.
Heroic efforts by private helicopter pilots, fishermen, everyday people, faith groups and charities have since helped most people get home and they have put some food back on the shelves.
Gasoline is available, but it’s rationed to 30 litres.
Driving on some roads is permitted, but for essential trips only.
The agricultural centre between Chilliwack and Abbotsford is still at risk. The land is a drained lakebed. Before it was emptied in the 1920s, it used to be Sumas Lake. It stays Sumas Plain nowadays thanks to drainage canals and an aging pumphouse.
The floor of the Fraser Valley has been flooded by the river before, but, if that pumphouse fails, Sumas and its dairy, poultry and pork farms will become a lake again.
That money wasted in Ottawa would be helpful right now. This disaster will go on the credit card again.
What about the next one?
Kris Sims is the B.C. Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
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