Military considering charging for emergency relief services

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Toronto's Mayor Mel Lastman called in the army.to move the snow around back in 1999 and though that may have had a political cost, he didn't have to pay the military. That could change with the next natural disaster in Canada - a Real one - because the Defense Minister says budget cuts may force the department to charge communities and provinces for sending in its troops to help and to rescue. Today, we're asking what the other costs of that decision might be.



Military considering charging for emergency relief services - Parliamentary Secretary to Peter MacKay

It was the largest deployment of Canadian troops since they rushed to the hills of Korea. In 1997, the front line was the Red River when it burst its banks forcing huge evacuations and causing more than five hundred million dollars in damage. 

More than eight thousand Canadian soldiers helped shore up barricades, evacuate homes and provide medical services. It was an enormous relief effort for Manitobans. And the military would return when the floods did in 2009 and in 2011.

The ice storms in Quebec and forest fires in Ontario also brought the troops into action. And with those services Ottawa picked up the bill.

But now, the Department of National Defence says they are considering no longer automatically waiving the costs of emergency assistance. That means paying for disaster relief from municipal or provincial budgets may be the "new normal."

Chris Alexander is the parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Peter MacKay. He joined us from Ajax, Ontario.

Military considering charging for emergency relief services - Disaster Expert

A decision to charge for disaster assistance may lead to more than just a big bill for provinces and municipalities. Some say it would represent a fundamental change in our relationship with the federal government -- signaling that we could no longer rely on it to have our backs in times of need.

Tim Haney is an Assistant Professor of sociology at Mount Royal University who specializes in disasters and their impact on communities. He was in our Calgary studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Jessica deMello and Dawna Dingwall.


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