To the Editor:
Last Saturday, Regina commemorated a difficult moment in its history – the 100th anniversary of the deadliest wind storm ever in Canada which devastated this young city in less than five horrific minutes late in the afternoon on June 30, 1912.
The Regina Tornado claimed 28 lives that day, and more later as others succumbed to their injuries. It left 2,500 homeless. Physical damages totaled more than $1.2-million (in 1912 dollars).
Facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions, the community immediately rallied to help each other with Mayor Peter McAra at the helm.
Financial support came quickly from the provincial government, the CPR and other large companies, neighboring small towns like Rouleau and Qu’Appelle, and big cities like Winnipeg and Quebec. Relief money even arrived from as far away as Australia.
The federal government made a donation of $30,000 for immediate aid, and promised much more for rebuilding. Prime Minister Robert Borden’s new Conservative government pledged on July 3rd that it was “prepared in any reasonable way at all to render such cash assistance as the circumstances would justify”.
But that was in the midst of a provincial election campaign in Saskatchewan. As soon as voters re-elected a Liberal government on July 11th, the Conservative money from Ottawa evaporated. Suddenly, disaster assistance was purely a local responsibility.
Sadly, the same sort of thing is happening again now.
Among the casualties buried in the rubble of recent Conservative budget cuts is decades of federal-provincial co-operation in preparing for and coping with community emergencies. The Joint Emergency Preparedness Program and the Canadian Emergency Management College have been cancelled.
Typically when a crisis strikes, we all pull together. But apparently not anymore – not in Stephen Harper’s Canada. You’re on your own.
Mr. Harper is fond of saying he’s “transforming” Canada beyond recognition.
I guess that means things like reduced Old Age Pensions, no federal environmental responsibility, arbitrary decisions on immigration and employment insurance, the tax-man intimidating charities, dilapidated democracy... and no federal support to help communities recover from storms, floods, collapsed buildings or other emergencies.
Ralph Goodale, MP, Wascana, SK.