Justin Trudeau will visit British Columbia next week to meet people affected by the wildfires burning in the province’s Interior, he has announced.
Trudeau was speaking at a joint news conference with new BC Premier John Horgan, after the pair officially met for the first time in Ottawa.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) July 25, 2017
The Prime Minister said the wildfires, which have seen at least 47,000 people evacuated, had been their first topic of conversation.
“I thanked the Premier for his leadership on this matter and reiterated our government’s full support in these difficult times,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau said the federal government had deployed the Canadian Armed Forces and provided beds and blankets from the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile.
Trudeau also said the government would also be providing “significant” financial support to help the wildfire response and recovery process.
This is on top of the federal government’s recent contribution to the Canadian Red Cross, matching the amount it is spending on direct support to evacuees.
“Rest assured, we will be supporting British Columbians as they recover from this difficult time and begin to rebuild,” said Trudeau.
“I know all Canadians stand with the victims and the people of British Columbia and we will continue to do everything we can to help.”
Horgan said the federal government was there for the province “from day one” offering help and it had been “a great ally” in the fight against the fires.
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Trudeau’s visit to the region affected by the wildfires will come two weeks after a visit from federal ministers Ralph Goodale, Harjit S. Sajjan, and Carla Qualtrough.
The three toured the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, a hub of the province’s wildfire response, and evacuation centres in Prince George and Kamloops.
They also flew over affected areas, observed the on-the-ground response, and received a briefing from municipal officials and Canadian Red Cross personnel.
Horgan, who is leading a BC NDP minority government with the support of the BC Greens, was only sworn in last week.
The new Premier has said the BC wildfires are his new government’s top priority and has already sent some of his new cabinet to the affected areas.
Horgan plans to visit the region himself by the end of this week.
Opioid crisis also discussed
In their meeting on Tuesday, Trudeau and Horgan also discussed BC’s opioid crisis, which has seen a shocking number of people dying from overdoses.
Fentanyl continues to be one of the biggest killers, and the opioid was linked to 188 deaths between January 1 and May 30 this year.
“We can’t close our eyes to the opioid problem,” said Trudeau.
“As leaders we know that we have a responsibility to help people who are particularly vulnerable and we are determined to work together to find solutions.”
Horgan said he would be meeting with federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott later on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in depth.
The Prime Minister also said the federal government was committed to the working with the province to make housing and childcare more affordable in BC.
Strong statement to Washington
Finally, said Trudeau, they spoke about Horgan’s upcoming trip to Washington, DC, to discuss the issue of softwood lumber.
“I believe he will be a strong voice for the people of British Columbia, who have been free and fair traders and will provide valuable input as part of our negotiations,” said Trudeau.
US President Donald Trump has slapped duties of between 3% and 24% on lumber imports from Canada, a move our politicians have called devastating.
“I’m here… to make sure we’re making a strong statement to Washington about the importance of a fair softwood lumber agreement for the people of BC,” said Horgan.
“This is critically important to our economy and to working people right across British Columbia.”
Horgan said he was grateful Trudeau and federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland wanted a softwood lumber deal that “works for all Canadians.”
Kinder Morgan pipeline disagreement
Notably, the men’s disagreement over the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion through Burnaby Mountain was not mentioned.
Trudeau approved the expansion last year, but during the election campaign, Horgan’s BC NDP pledged to stop the Kinder Morgan project from going ahead.
After the election, Trudeau said he stood by his approval of the Kinder Morgan project, despite any opposition from the next BC government.
Today, all of that was apparently put aside.
“It’s ultimately the commonality, the things that we had in common, that we discussed today,” said Horgan.
“The importance of having someone leading the country as Prime Minister who has deep roots in British Columbia is a tremendous opportunity for us on the West Coast.”
Horgan said British Columbians can often “feel isolated and alone on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.”
But he said, the Prime Minister was an ally on issues like affordable housing and access to affordable childcare.
“Those are constants right across the country and Canadians are looking for leadership, and I’m grateful to see it coming from the Prime Minister on the those areas.”