May 13, 2016.
After touring Fort McMurray by air and on the ground Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians need to understand that the pictures they have seen of a raging wild fire are accurate and it isn’t because of weather or luck that most of the community remains standing.
“I don’t think people understand that … it was the efforts of the firefighters that prevented us from losing 85 per cent of the municipality….I have spoken to the first responders, the firefighters who detailed just how many interventions were made at various points, strategic moments that ended up saving neighbourhoods and indeed large portions of the community and that’s the story Canadians don’t yet understand,” said Trudeau, speaking from the Provincial Operations Centre in Edmonton.
Trudeau, who was accompanied by members of the newly-established ad hoc committee on northern Alberta wild fires, said his government will work alongside the province to support both the urgent and long term needs of rebuilding Fort McMurray. That support will come in funding beyond matching individual donations received by the Red Cross. To date, the Red Cross has collected $86 million.
“There will be significant federal monies invested in that community as we rebuild. But we’re just beginning to understand the scale and scope of the problem, and establishing in partnership (with the province) a path forward,” he said.
Trudeau also announced that Edmonton was one of a handful of new regions that will be getting extended employment insurance. When the federal government delivered its budget in March, Edmonton had been excluded. Trudeau said Edmonton’s addition was not due to the Fort McMurray situation but due to new unemployment numbers the government had received.
“Obviously the fire is something that is tragic and if, indeed, offering more support to Edmonton and the areas around it will help people, who left Fort McMurray to return to Edmonton and are out of work, then that’s a good thing,” he said.
Trudeau acknowledged Albertans and Canadians for their outpouring of support, both in sending their firefighters north as well as for fundraising, volunteering and donations
He also applauded Premier Rachel Notley for her leadership.
Trudeau, who was accompanied on his trip to the region by Indigenous leaders, also noted the contributions of the Indigenous population.
“To First Nations, who have provided leadership in a number of ways by opening up their communities and homes to evacuees, by supporting the transportation of evacuees, or by making donations, and to the First Nations and Metis volunteer firefighting crews who are part of the effort to supress the fire, thank you,” he said.
Trudeau was ending his Alberta tour by visiting evacuees, who, he said, he would tell that the federal government “will be there in the months and indeed the years to come as we rebuild Fort McMurray and restore this thriving community to what it needs to be.”
“The governments of Alberta and Canada are working closely together.... Our shared aim is to help Fort McMurray and other affected communities get back on their feet. This is the work of years, not weeks or months, but we will be there every step of the way,” said Notley.