Ministers tour affected areas with BC counterparts, announce Red Cross donation and tax relief measures for wildfire evacuees

VANCOUVER, July 22, 2017 /CNW/ - Today, federal ministers Ralph Goodale, Harjit S. Sajjan, and Carla Qualtrough met with British Columbia Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development Doug Donaldson to discuss joint efforts to respond to and recover from the ongoing wildfires in the province.

The Government of Canada commends the Government of British Columbia for funding direct financial support to wildfire evacuees through the Canadian Red Cross. The Government of Canada today committed to match this support, through a donation to the Canadian Red Cross, in an amount equivalent to the total dollar amount being paid to every registered wildfire evacuee households throughout the evacuation period.

Ministers also announced that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has implemented emergency tax relief measures to support Canadians whose primary concerns during this time are their families, homes, and communities.

Ministers visited the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, a hub of the province's wildfire response, and toured evacuation centres in Prince George and Kamloops. After flying over affected areas, ministers observed the on-the-ground response, and expressed thanks to the many first responders, military personnel, volunteers and charitable organizations contributing to the operation. They were also briefed by municipal officials and Canadian Red Cross personnel at the Prince George and Kamloops evacuation centres.

Quotes

"I want to thank Ministers Farnworth and Donaldson for facilitating today's tour so that my colleagues and I could assess the response first hand from the perspective of those on the front lines. Today's commitment of funding for the Red Cross demonstrates that the Government of Canada is committed to provide all possible assistance to fight the inferno, keep people safe, make the evacuations as tolerable as possible, and support recovery moving forward. Together we will work towards resolution, building back better, and addressing the challenges of long-term mitigation of potentially devastating events like this one in the future."

- The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

"The Canadian Armed Forces is always ready to support Canadians in times of crisis. They responded swiftly to the Government of British Columbia's call for assistance, providing professional and capable support. Throughout today's activities, I was extremely proud to see firsthand how well our military members have been working with first responders in the service of citizens in need."

- The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

"As Chair of the Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Federal Recovery Efforts for 2017 BC Wildfires, I will continue to work with my colleagues towards addressing both the short and long-term needs of those affected. It was important for us to see first-hand the impact these wildfires are having on families and I would like to thank all the first responders and volunteers on the ground for helping to keep British Columbians safe."

- The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities and Chair of Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Federal Recovery Efforts for 2017 BC Wildfires

"The Canada Revenue Agency will continue making every effort to support Canadians who are dealing with the devastating effects of these wildfires. Taxpayer relief provisions are available, and the Canada Revenue Agency will continue working closely with its federal partners as part of a united Government of Canada response."

- The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue

Quick Facts

  • On July 14, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of the Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Federal Recovery Efforts for 2017 BC Wildfires, to coordinate federal efforts to help the many communities affected by the wildfires raging through British Columbia.

  • CRA's emergency tax measures are effective immediately and include:
    • Ceasing all collections, audit-related activities and administrative correspondence for those impacted, until further notice.
    • Cancelling penalties/ interest for those impacted and who are delayed in filing their tax return or in paying amounts owing because of these events.
    • Assigning designated telephone agents to provide assistance to callers affected by the wildfires. Agents can request taxpayer relief on their behalf, and can provide advice relating to lost, destroyed, or damaged records. Individuals can contact the CRA at 1-800-959-8281 and business callers can call 1-800-959-5525.
    • Working with Canada Post to ensure that taxpayers expecting a tax refund or benefit payment have secure access to their mail following the suspension of delivery to impacted areas in British Columbia. Taxpayers can visit Canada Post service alert webpage for more information.

  • The Government of Canada will also support the Government of British Columbia through the Disaster Financial Assistance Agreements (DFAA) to cover the costs associated with long term recovery and rebuilding in the affected communities.

  • The Government of Canada is also providing the following support:
    • The Canadian Armed Forces have deployed aircraft and vehicles and approximately 380 troops altogether. 
    • Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada has provided beds and blankets from the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile.
    • Environment and Climate Change Canada is providing forecasting and analysis of weather patterns.
    • Natural Resources Canada is providing modelling for fire activity and growth, and smoke and emissions.
    • The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre is coordinating firefighting resources, including those recently arrived from Australia.
    • Global Affairs Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are helping out on this front with respect to international offers of assistance.
    • Transport Canada is dealing with rail and air traffic issues to make sure Canadians are clear of danger zones.
    • Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is working with Emergency Management BC and the BC Ministry of Forest's Wildfire Management Branch to ensure First Nations communities receive the necessary response and recovery services.
    • The RCMP has been on the ground assisting citizens as the police force of jurisdiction in many of the affected areas.

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SOURCE Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada

For further information: Scott Bardsley, Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, 613-998-5681; Ashley Michnowski, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, 819-934-1122 / TTY: 1-866-702-6967; Jordan Owens, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of National Defence, (613) 996-3100; Media Relations, Public Safety Canada, 613-991-0657, media@ps-sp.gc.ca; Media Relations, Department of National Defence, Phone: 613-996-2353, Toll-Free: 1-866-377-0811, Email: mlo-blm@forces.gc.ca; Province of B.C. Joint Information Centre media line, 778 698-7452, 1 888 837-9650 (toll free)

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