The B.C. Liberals will not face a $1 billion bill to repair damage to infrastructure following this spring’s devastating floods in the province’s Interior, but that is not to say there won’t be a bill in the millions, according to the province’s finance minister.
“The, what, $1 billion number seems very high,” Carole James told reporters Tuesday, noting the final figure could be lower if the cost of rebuilding will be less than projected.
“There’s no proof of that now. So it’s too early to speculate. I know the province has been working quite hard with local governments, and no one is yet able to put a cost on that.”
The announcement that the province has $163 million in budgeted borrowing to weather the budget shortfall was in line with the NDP government’s budget.
James said the money won’t go toward the flood cleanup or relocation. Instead, it will go toward preventing future flash floods, some of which could happen on people’s own land and on roads, she said.
The funding commitment comes in the same week that MLA Norm Letnick accused the previous provincial government of having “covered up” the situation of hundreds of evacuees who could not return to their homes because of extensive flood damage.
“The people I represent, affected by the flood, are angry. This was an unbelievable failure on the part of the previous government, of the previous premier, to do what’s needed to restore residents,” he said.
“Residents were evacuated because they were told that their homes would be inaccessible, then here they are, almost two months later, still not safe to occupy.”
Letnick, the MLA for Chilliwack-Hope, has also called for an independent inquiry into the May 23 flooding.
B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said she’s been in contact with Letnick and that the government is focused on finding solutions to flood-related problems.