Conservatives MPs say Alberta NDP response to fort McMurray wildfire was ‘mismanaged’

Conservatives MPs say Alberta NDP response to fort McMurray wildfire was ‘mismanaged’

25 January 2017

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Canada —  Conservative MPs are renewing accusations that the Alberta NDP government mismanaged the response to the Fort McMurray wildfires last May.

In a joint statement from the Conservative MPs, Fort McMurray-Cold Lake MP David Yurdiga, Calgary East MP Deepak Obhrai and Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder slammed the Alberta government for slow response in asking for help and poor communication throughout the wildfire, releasing 312 pages of documents released through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

“According to information obtained from a series of FOIs to the Alberta government, the NDP’s management of the Fort McMurray forest fire was nothing short of incompetent,” the joint statement reads.

“There were problems at every stage of the crisis — they were ill-prepared to prevent the fire, slow to intervene, and they put displaced citizens in danger during re-entry.”

The statement says despite the fire starting on May 1, the government took three days before drafting a request for assistance from the Department of National Defence.

Alberta government spokeswoman Leah Holoiday responded to the accusations, saying an independent, third-party review is ongoing and that the government looks forward to expert analysis and recommendations.

“The Wood Buffalo wildfire was an incredibly scary and traumatic experience for the families who live there,” Holoiday said.

“We are proud of the first responders who stepped up immediately and put their lives on the line to keep Albertans safe. We will always stand by their hard work and our support for them throughout their fight.”

The wildfire was first found in a forested area southwest of Fort McMurray at 4 p.m. on May 1. On May 3, the winds shifted, threatening the city and triggering a mandatory evacuation order.

The documents from the Conservative MPs Freedom of Information request show a draft request to the Department of National Defence for help was being written on May 3. An agreement between the province and the military was signed on May 3.

The MPs say the DND had three aircraft already in the region ready to be deployed while memos were still being drafted.

Then Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee sent the Canadian Armed Forces home on May 12, which was premature, the federal Conservatives argue.

The Conservative MPs also criticized the NDP’s budget cuts, where they reduced airtanker contracts by $5.1 million.

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