Loewen applauds upgrades to fire protection

Todd Loewen

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Falher-area MLA and Forestry and Parks Minister Todd Loewen welcomes proposed legislation to protect rural and remote communities from wildfires.

Amendments were introduced to four Acts, including the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, states a government news released May 9.

“Large complex wildfires have become increasingly common in Alberta in recent years and these events demand effective co-ordination between jurisdictions,” says Loewen, MLA for Central Peace – Notley.

“The proposed amendments will ensure a robust response during wildfire emergencies by enabling Alberta’s government to actively support local authorities when additional provincial aid is needed or intervene if absolutely necessary.”

To ensure that personnel responds to emergencies in the most effective and efficient manner, proposed amendments would clarify and enhance the province’s discretionary authority to conduct emergency wildfire responds on all provincial lands, both inside and out of the Forest Protection Area.

Currently, emergency response in municipalities outside the protection area is managed by local authorities and resources unless and until they request provincial assistance.

If the amended Act is passed as proposed, changes would help ensure that, when large or multi-jurisdictional wild- fires occur, Alberta’s government can step forward in to support and potentially lead response efforts.

Proposed changes would also clarify the Alberta government’s authority to construct fireguards and allow crews to remove buildings or structures in emergency situations when required by firefighting efforts.

As well, the act would be amended to include Metis Settlements and clarify that the government can take actions to fight wildfires on any provincial lands, including Metis Settlements.

Amendments would also require municipalities to report critical information to the province to make sure government can provide the appropriate support at at the right time.

Fixed election dates in May are also being proposed to October to avoid any further disruptions that occurred last year when wildfires were at their height in the election campaign before voting day May 29.

The government proposes to change to the Election Act to move the election day to October from May so it does not coincide with the spring and summer wildfire, drought and flood season.

If amendments are passed, the new set election day would be the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following the election day of the last general election.

“With natural disasters like wildfires, drought and flood more likely to occur in the spring and summer months, moving Alberta’s election date from May to October jut makes sense,” Justice Minister Mickey Amery says.

“The change would also bring Alberta in line with other jurisdictions that already hold provincial elections in the fall.”

Municipal and local government elections in Alberta are also held every four years on the third Monday in October.

Next municipal elections are scheduled for 2025 on Oct. 18.

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