MP says more federal coordination needed for wildfire response

A Northwestern Ontario MP is calling for enhanced federal coordination for responding to wildfires across the country.

The country has been grappling with what is expected to be the worst forest fire season on record, with Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Quebec all facing major fires that have led to evacuations.

Kenora MP Eric Melillo said the fire season is something that happens to some extent every single year, with some years worse than others. 

“But it’s something that we should be prepared for and one of my greatest concerns is right now it doesn’t seem like there’s the type of coordination that we should see,” he said in an interview on Monday. “I’m not a firefighter, but obviously there are a number of weather and compounding factors that go into [a fire response approach].”

He said each province has their own provincial emergency response, but the federal government should be looking at ways of having a coordinated response, “so that we can hopefully put those fires out a lot more quickly.”

When asked about the connection between wildfires and climate change that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been making and what can be done to be about wildfires, Melillo acknowledged the climate is changing. 

“There are going to be a certain level of more extreme weather events, whether or not any specific fire is because of climate change or because of arson or because of other factors,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you for every single one off the top of my head and I don’t think the prime minister could either.”

Melillo was critical of the federal government’s plan to address climate change through carbon pricing.

“That’s sort of the argument that they’ve been making while they’ve been increasing the carbon tax, every year since they took office. And we still have these wildfires,” he said. “So, I would argue that their environmental plan isn’t working. I mean, it’s only a tax plan.”

During question period in the House of Commons last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “these forest fires are worse than the ones in previous years, but they are not the worst we will ever see. In the years to come, the situation will only deteriorate.”

Trudeau added the current Liberal government has done more to fight climate change than any previous government in history.

“Unfortunately, we are caught in a debate where Conservatives are still arguing about whether or not we should be fighting climate change, instead of contributing to a debate around how best to fight climate change,” he said.

“We have put forward a price on pollution that is changing corporate behaviour and driving down emissions. The Conservatives stand against it, but they do not have anything to offer.”

Melillo said the Conservatives would like to see a much greater focus on investment in clean technology and in new technologies and innovation.

“Let’s work with industry, let’s work with the key players to, to innovate to create new, new alternatives of, of energy and, and new solutions in order to, to address climate change,” he said. “I think in my view that’s how we’re going to help lower emissions and keep our environment clean.”