Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Need to Improve Planning, Tracking for Severe Weather Events, Says Audit

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Need to Improve Planning, Tracking for Severe Weather Events, Says Audit

Article excerpt

Improve planning for severe weather: audit

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OTTAWA - The federal government needs to get a better handle on the impact and implications of frequent severe weather events, says the commissioner of environment and sustainable development.

Commissioner Julie Gelfand's spring report finds that Canada's federal floodplain maps have not been properly updated in 20 years, building codes aren't taking into account a changing climate and decision-makers need better tools for predicting the frequency, duration and intensity of storms.

The severe weather chapter was one of three in Tuesday's spring audit, which also included a related look at how federal support for municipal infrastructure is measuring mitigation and climate impacts.

The commissioner also took aim at regulation of the cosmetics industry, which she found operates outside the constraints of many other consumer products and leaves Canadians uninformed and open to adverse health and safety incidents.

Gelfand acknowledged in an accompanying editorial that extreme weather is currently top of mind.

"At a time when scientists are predicting that extreme weather events -- with impacts that include floods, droughts and forest fires -- will become more frequent and intense, putting an aging and weakened infrastructure to an ever more difficult test, the time is ripe to consider the findings presented in these reports," Gelfand wrote.

A major wildfire in Alberta has consumed some 5,800 square kilometres and continues to burn after forcing the evacuation of more than 80,000 Fort McMurray residents earlier this month, just one of a series of recent, large-scale natural disasters. Almost 2,300 firefighters are still battling 14 active wildfires in Alberta.

The audit noted that the federal government's Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements relief fund has paid out more in the last six years than it did in the previous 39 years of its existence.

Homes and buildings under current building codes may not be strong enough to withstand coming climates -- such as extraordinary snow loads -- and municipalities need help understanding the size of culverts that may be needed in future for extreme rainfall, the audit found. …

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