The Province is yet to announce a long-term funding model for B.C.’s 80 Search and Rescue groups. File photo

Kootenay government leaders join search and rescue funding calls

Resolutions to put pressure on Province for stable funding; EMBC in negotiations with BCSARA

The Regional District of East Kootenay and City of Fernie have joined calls for a long-term funding model for Search and Rescue (SAR) groups across B.C.

Last week, The Free Press reported Elk Valley SAR volunteers could be forced to resort to bake sales and grant writing to cover their basic costs if provincial funding is not renewed by the end of this month.

LOOK BACK: Elk Valley Search and Rescue funding uncertainty causes concern

While SAR groups are reimbursed by the B.C. Government for deployment expenses, they do not have a consistent funding source for training, capital items and operational expenses such as insurance and utilities, despite growing demand for their services.

For the past three years, B.C.’s 80 SAR groups, including three in the Elk Valley, have relied on allocations from two one-off grants totalling $15 million provided to the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) by the Liberal government in 2016 and 2017.

There were hopes this year’s budget would include a long-term funding model for search and rescue, as proposed by BCSARA in 2015. However, there was nothing in the B.C. Budget 2019 and SAR groups have been left scrambling with current funding to run out March 31.

Now, the RDEK and City of Fernie have taken a stand on the issue.

At the March 8 meeting, the RDEK Board of Directors unanimously voted to send a letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Minister of Finance requesting “stable funding for search and rescue units throughout the province”.

The resolution was put forward by Sparwood Mayor and board director, David Wilks, and seconded by RDEK Area A Director Mike Sosnowski.

The board also passed a resolution by Fernie Mayor and board director, Ange Qualizza, requesting the Union of B.C. Municipalities petition the Province to implement “a consistent and sustainable funding model for Search and Rescue groups to allow them to better provide efficient and effective search and rescue operations”.

Seconded by Elkford Mayor and board director, Dean McKerracher, the resolution will be submitted to the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments for consideration at its annual general meeting and convention in Castlegar next month.

Qualizza’s motion also came before Fernie council at Monday’s regular meeting, which was attended by local SAR members.

It acknowledged the valuable service SAR volunteers provide and the increasing cost of maintaining the necessary training, equipment and facilities.

The motion also recognized that grants and other “time consuming, short term and unpredictable funding sources” do not provide financial security or allow long-term strategic planning.

Qualizza told council there was an “appetite” for the RDEK resolutions amid conflicting information on SAR funding from local MLAs.

“The idea isn’t so much that we’re convinced that the funding is not coming but let’s put some support through a drafted resolution, so we’re all in consensus,” she said.

“This resolution is also before the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and the Regional District of Central Kootenay, and the idea is if we can get three regional districts in our area, and a few other local governments, putting forward the same motion it’s going to have a lot of volume.”

Councillor Kevin McIssac moved the motion, which was seconded by Councillor Troy Nixon.

Emergency Management BC (EMBC) has confirmed it is in talks with BCSARA.

In a statement to The Free Press, an EMBC spokesman said while the Province understands the SAR community’s concerns about funding support, the public should not be alarmed.

“Search and Rescue members are reimbursed for operational and out-of-pocket expenses incurred during deployment, and no change is being contemplated to this support,” he said.

The spokesman said EMBC is working with BCSARA to establish a sustainable and secure long-term funding model

“While this process is time-consuming, it’s important to get it right,” he said.

“Supplemental funding to bolster training, provide administrative support and equipment renewals remains in place through the end of this fiscal year. We hope to come to a solution to funding concerns quickly that works for everyone.

“Search and Rescue volunteers in British Columbia are among the best in the world, and the Province is committed to supporting their invaluable work.”

Just Posted

Glacier Gymnastics big winner in annual grant funding

Columbia Basin Trust doled out $1.4 million in grants to the regional organizations

Procter working to reopen community bakery

The Procter Community Society is fundraising upwards of $100,000 for the project

Kaslo bus fueled by vegetable oil to begin service next month

Mountain Man Mike’s will run routes to Vancouver and eventually Edmonton

KAST receives $15,000 for inclusive programs at Nelson Tech Club

‘These programs will be a perfect introduction to using technology’

Nelson to send two musicians to provincial Festival of The Arts

Lucas Alexander and Nico Bucher will compete in Chilliwack later this month

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read