Feds cut HUSAR funding 0
HUSAR team members conduct a mock evacuation at a Toronto hotel. Toronto's HUSAR team is now assisting with the Elliot Lake mall collapse. (QMI AGENCY PHOTO)
The Stephen Harper government is fighting its deficit by slashing funding to all five Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) units in Canada, including the Toronto team on scene at the collapsed mall in Elliot Lake.
Four HUSAR teams remained on the sideline Tuesday while the federal government offered up the help of the military in Elliot Lake.
Public Safety Canada announced in April that it would no longer provide Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) funding which supports the search and rescue teams after March 2013.
Julie Carmichael, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said in an e-mail that it will be up to the provinces, which are responsible for the oversight and base funding of HUSAR, to make decisions about the units’ future.
“Emergency management is a provincial responsibility,” Carmichael said.
The federal government has put $1.4 million into the HUSAR team engaged in Elliot Lake, she added.
In total, the five HUSAR teams received $2.2 million in 2009-10; $2.75 million in 2010-11; $2.89 million in 2011-12 and $1.87 million in 2012-13.
Following the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centre, HUSAR teams were trained to conduct search and rescue missions in collapsed structures using dogs and electronic search equipment.
“The teams breach, shore, lift and remove structural components, use heavy construction equipment to remove debris, and medically treat and transfer victims,” according to the Public Safety Canada.
Teams are based in Vancouver, Calgary, Manitoba, Toronto and Halifax.
The decision to end federal funding for search and rescue initiatives has drawn criticism from first response organizations, including a letter-writing campaign by the British Columbia Association of Emergency Managers.
A notice from a federal public safety official, posted on the association’s website, explains that the funding cut is part of the Harper government’s Economic Action Plan 2012.
“We have carefully and critically examined our emergency management activities and identified deficit reduction measures that streamline government operations, provide value for taxpayers while ensuring that the safety of Canadians is paramount,” the notice says. “The original objectives of (the JEPP) program, namely to enhance local emergency preparedness and response capacity, have been met.”