Friday, March 27, 2020

Why the BCNDP Nerfed the Emergency Program Act

The BCNDP Government is irresponsibly putting the safety and security of British Columbians at significant risk by not ordering the closure of construction sites. In order to ensure that local authorities don't close them using the powers specifically and concertedly delegated to them under the Province's Emergency Program Act, RSBC 1996 legislation, the Provincial Government announced on Thursday that it was suspending all the emergency powers afforded to local authorities under the Act.

If you imagine legislation as something like the software which runs on the hardware of the State and its capacity to mobilize, the Emergency Program Act was specifically designed in contemplation that local authorities would take action in the event of a cross-Province emergency, and those specifically  delegated emergency powers are the mechanism by which they are supposed to be able to do that, by empowering their city managers, their fire chiefs, their police chiefs, to take actions which the local authority perceives would ameliorate risk or prevent the loss of life.

The suspension of local authority emergency powers by Premier John Horgan and Mike Farnworth is to force the LNG camps to stay open, over the objection of local authorities and the specific powers enumerated to them under the Emergency Program Act. The Emergency Program Act is specifically designed and structured such as to delegate emergency powers to local authorities to take the steps most necessary to protect their communities according to local conditions. Premier Horgan and Minister Mike Farnworth just gutted that ability.

Why have Premier Horgan and Mike Farnworth nerfed and gutted the Emergency Program Act? In other words, why have they abrogated the powers afforded to the local authorities under the Act? For the same reason Dr Bonnie Henry has not ordered the camps closed: they are prioritizing accumulation by dispossession over the safety and security of workers and British Columbians. They are prioritizing the interests of extractive industry over the safety of workers, First Nations peoples, and British Columbians generally. The 'coordinated approach' of Premier Horgan and Minister Mike Farnworth is in fact a vehicle to deprive municipalities of the life-saving emergency powers which were specifically contemplated for them in an event of an emergency precisely such as this one.

Of all the low-down half-measures pursued by this so-called 'social democrat' BCNDP government, insisting workers continue extractive industry in unsafe conditions while the First Nations they are dispossessing are compelled to take shelter is perhaps the most loathsome and vile. And, in order to facilitate that extractive industry in unsafe conditions against the wishes of the First Nations society concerned, Premier Horgan and Minister Mike Farnworth have effectively left British Columbia without a functional Emergency Program Act.

Local authorities who had depended on those emergency powers to pursue strategies of ameliorating the risks to their community, now cannot do so, the Province's legislative instrument for emergency management crippled, all to keep the man-camps churning, irrespective of the health concerns. Not closing the LNG camps, and gutting the Emergency Program Act to facilitate not closing the LNG camps, is a bloody albatross that ought to weigh on the shoulders of Premier Horgan, Minister Mike Farnworth, Minister Adrian Dix, and Doctor Bonnie Henry. These people are talking out of both sides of their mouths. From one side they say they are resolutely combating the health crisis, from the other they are sanctioning the exacerbation of the public health crisis by forcing unsafe work to transpire.

There are a million different circumstances in which it was specifically contemplated, and authorized by the Emergency Program Act, that a local authority would act for the interests of its specific locality. What Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth have ensured is that now no municipality will be able to avail itself of the emergency powers authorized to it under the act, in order to ensure that some local authorities do not use those powers to interfere with resource extraction.

For a Provincial Government to gut the function of its own emergency powers legislation in entirety in the middle of a global pandemic in order to facilitate the continuity of unsafe extractive industry is criminal, cartoonish villainy. It is impossible that Premier Horgan, Minister Farnworth, Minister Dix and Doctor Henry do not know that what they are doing is reckless, irresponsible and unsafe. They have rather made a knowing, cynical calculation to exempt extractive industry, even though it is unsafe, even though it poses a significant public health risk. They have placed the interests of extractive corporations above those of the health, safety and security of all British Columbians, and, moreover, above the need for all local authorities to be able to delegate emergency powers in the midst of an emergency situation.

Section 13 of the Emergency Program Act, RSBC 1996 delegates to local authorities the powers enumerated in Section 10 (d) to (l). In order to unsafely keep LNG going, Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth have just stripped local authorities of all of those powers. These are powers under S 13 of the Emergency Program Act like to control travel to and from areas, to cause evacuations, to construct structures, to authorize assistance, that is, vital measures that local authorities absolutely ought to have at their disposal.

When Premier Horgan says that stripping these powers from local authorities is meant to prevent 'leapfrogging,' what he means is that the BCNDP has decided to keep the LNG camps open irrespective of the risks, and has deleted any recourse of objection by local authorities. The purpose of Nerfing the Emergency Program Act is to ensure that municipalities do not restrict economic activity farther than the Provincial government is comfortable with, irrespective of local circumstances. They are placing the accumulation imperative above human lives and relations between settler-society and First Nations societies.

What Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth have done in abrogating the emergency powers specifically afforded to the local authorities across British Columbia by the Emergency Program Act is enforce a minimal, blanket, one-size fits all non-response to the public health crisis. Does your municipal council feel travel ought to be restricted right now? Do they want to empower local police chief or fire chiefs to make necessary determinations about emergency measures? They can't anymore, because Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth don't want them trying to close LNG camps.

Again: in a complete gutting of the carefully thought out Emergency Program Act, no local authority may now avail themselves of the emergency powers afforded to them by the act, because Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth don't want some of them messing with LNG. Why even have an Emergency Program Act if, in an effort to exempt extractive industry, you are willing to gut the Act and deprive every local authority of their lawful authority to act to protect their communities in the ways they know best to do so?

There is something so insidiously grim about a so-called 'social democratic' government knowingly, cynically putting workers in harms way to ensure plunder during a global pandemic, and crippling the ability of all communities to respond to do so. Abrogating the powers of local authorities delegated to them by the Emergency Program Act leaves communities vulnerable, and for what? So Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth can keep ramrodding through an LNG pipeline in recklessly, irresponsibly unsafe conditions.

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