MPs hold emergency debate on B.C. flooding, extreme weather

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The House of Commons is holding an emergency debate over flooding in BC as both Canada’s coasts face the onslaught of wet weather.

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The debate began at 6:30 pm EST and is expected to last till midnight.

The request for debate was supported by liberals, conservatives, the NDP and the Greens, and Speaker Anthony Rota agreed that the request met the House’s standard for an emergency debate.

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However, there was disagreement as to what the debate should focus on.

Vancouver Island Green MP Elizabeth May said the focus should be on the overall climate emergency, with the focus on environmental disasters faced by B.C. this year, including summer heat domes and wildfires. BC NDP MP Richard Cannings agreed with him.

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Conservative BC MP Ed Fast, whose Abbotsford ride is one of the hardest hit by floods in southern BC, said he wants to fully discuss what is happening in his home province.

“This is arguably the worst natural disaster in the history of our country,” Fast said.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said earlier this week that any emergency debate on BC should include a discussion on how Canada can better prepare for more frequent extreme weather events.

It is unclear whether any new measures will be decided in addition to the more than 500 troops Ottawa sent to B.C. to aid recovery efforts after a storm last week that resulted in 300 mm of rain, at least Four deaths, thousands of evacuations, flooded fields, numerous landslides, closed highways and livestock killed.

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The debate comes as three new storms are set to hit BC, all of which are expected to be of the same type that put the province in a state of emergency: atmospheric rivers.

An atmospheric river occurs when a large, narrow stream of vapor travels through the sky and can cause more rainfall than usual.

Granthshala B.C. meteorologist Christy Gordon says the next three storms to hit B.C. are expected to deliver more than 200 percent of the average rainfall in the province, which puts November in the region-breaking record for rainfall.

The first of a series of storms will hit the B.C. coast late Wednesday, with the heaviest rainfall expected Wednesday night through Friday morning.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement specifically for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley near the mountains. This also includes the Sea to Sky corridor and the Sunshine Coast from Gibson to Earls Cove, where 40 to 80 mm of fall is expected by Friday morning.

“This storm will be shorter-lasting and less intense than the event from November 13 to 15,” Environment Canada said.

According to Granthshala BC meteorologist Mark Madriga, the next storm is expected Saturday and early Sunday, and the third is predicted to hit next Tuesday.

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Canada’s east coast is also facing its own woes from a typhoon that has affected the provinces and washed away roads and bridges.

Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency in two counties on Tuesday, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, the southwestern city of Channel-Port aux Basques was cut off by flooding.

The emergency debate comes as the House of Commons recently on Monday gave a minority government to the Liberals for the first time since the September election.

—With files from Amy Judd and the Canadian Press

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