How British Columbia staged an emergency session to talk about floods

Numerous politicians in British Columbia held an emergency debate Friday to discuss the devastating flood that struck the province last week.

Both the minority Liberal and the British Columbia New Democratic Party are in a formal Opposition to the BC Liberal government, which is in an ongoing legal battle with the BC NDP. The NDP’s current legislative leader, in what is being seen as an obstruction of the opposition, called for an emergency debate to deal with the flooding.

The legislature was operating but on a pro-rata basis after several MLAs, including the opposition’s deputy leader and party leader John Horgan, were not allowed to attend the day’s session because they were not listed to be in attendance. Horgan explained on Twitter that it was not he, but the leader of the house, whom officials said was not allowed to attend the session. The NDP legislature’s speaker later explained that he did not have authority to accredit MLAs in the absence of the legislative leader.

The Globe and Mail, however, reported that by rules published Thursday, including in the legislature’s Standing Orders, there was only one way in, and the Speaker did not have authority to admit or exclude any MLA from the debate, at least until the legislature clerk had received formal communication from the MLA’s residence.

The B.C. House Division called the debate Friday afternoon to “consider how to provide for the emergency and disaster response to the emergency and natural disaster in Grand Forks” and to consider “implementing the emergency and disaster response to the emergency and natural disaster in Grand Forks and also considering the amendment and amendment consideration for the emergency and disaster response to the emergency and natural disaster in the Legislative Assembly.”

B.C. officials are investigating whether to declare a provincial state of emergency after 21 wildfires burned last week and nine rivers breached their banks in the former British colony, a wintertime haven for early movers and some of the most affluent in Canada.

The British Columbia Home Owner’s Association estimated last week that damaged to homes in the area could run into the billions of dollars. Other residents are venting on social media.

According to Postmedia, hundreds of residents in a gated community called Johnston Heights in Qualicum Beach are living in temporary housing due to flooding. One property owner there, however, told the publication: “FEMA didn’t have to move people out because there’s never been any water in our home.”

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