24 September 2010

Katrina North: the picture changes #igornl

Some four days after Hurricane Igor ripped through Newfoundland and Labrador, more and more people are calling local media to complain about the lack of provincial government action in the wake of the disaster.

On Friday afternoon, local media reports suggest that:

  1. despite knowing they had a huge disaster on their hands from the beginning, the provincial government never called for federal government assistance; and,
  2. for some reason the provincial government has still not requested federal assistance even as the Canadian Forces prepares to send elements of 4 Engineer Support Regiment from Gagetown, New Brunswick  and three ships from the Canadian navy to provide humanitarian assistance.

Make no mistake: responsibility for emergency response in the province sits squarely on the shoulders of the politicians who flitted around in helicopters for two days.  The federal government can only act once they get a request from the province. If the Canadian Forces aren’t in Newfoundland already it is simply because the provincial government didn’t ask for them.

In the days ahead, the provincial government may face some very difficult questions about its failure to seek help even when the magnitude of the disaster was well known.  Things were bad enough on the first day.  They were painfully obvious by the second.  By Friday – the fourth day – the scope was overwhelming.

Who knows why the provincial cabinet delayed asking for help as long as it did?  One thing is for sure, you can tell there are political consequences to the provincial government’s inaction.  Were it not so, the government’s political friends – like Bill Rowe – would not be trying so desperately to push responsibility for emergency response onto someone else’s shoulders.

- srbp -