Local cities pitching in for Fort McMurray
By Ian Cobb
The City of Cranbrook and City of Fernie are donating funds to help Fort McMurray.
The City of Cranbrook going to forward $1,000 to the City of Fort McMurray to help it recover from the devastating wildfire that last week tore through the northern Alberta community.
Coun. Isaac Hockley made a motion to forward the funds, unanimously backed by council, with the aim of forwarding a challenge to all municipalities in British Columbia, via the Union of B.C. Municipalities, to match or take part.
“The devastation caused by the wildfire in Fort McMurray has a far-reaching effect on many Cranbrook citizens and people throughout the Province of British Columbia, who have loved ones in Fort McMurray. Many families across the Province of British Columbia have relocated to Fort McMurray over the years to pursue employment opportunities and are now seeking refuge in their home communities and elsewhere until the crisis is over,” he said in his motion.
Hockley suggested the funds being sent should be used at Fort McMurray city council’s discretion to “benefit its residents in the aftermath of this disaster; and further, that staff be directed to forward a copy of this resolution to all B.C. local governments through UBCM and encourage province-wide support for Fort McMurray residents.”
Hockley added he knows of more than 60 area residents who were among those evacuated from the oil sands city.
“It’s near and dear to my heart,” added Coun. Tom Shypitka, noting a couple of relatives have come to Cranbrook as evacuees from Fort McMurray.
“We don’t realize how we’re connected to Fort McMurray in so many ways,” he said.
Council engaged in a brief discussion about whether to give the money to the city or Red Cross, as suggested by Coun. Ron Popoff, a former Fort McMurray resident, because of the federal government promise to match Red Cross donations.
Coun. Norma Blissett pointed out that the Red Cross is receiving large quantities of money and it might be better used by the city when it begins to the huge task of putting the community back together.
“This would allow it to be used in a different way,” she said.
Mayor Lee Pratt agreed, noting a lot of funds that go to organizations such as the Red Cross are used in administration and not on the ground. “It would be a good gesture if we sent it to the city,” he said. “If we were faced with that disaster, with the limited coffers we have, we’d hurt.”
City chief administrative officer David Kim said he experienced a major disaster while employed at the City of Calgary (flooding in 2013) and agreed with the mayor, suggesting the city would be grateful to know that other cities are thinking of them and providing unexpected financial help.
The funds will come from the Council Contingency fund; money budgeted to be used at council’s discretion throughout the year.
Coun. Danielle Cardozo informed council that Cranbrook and area has shown great support for Fort McMurray already and believed residents would not be upset by the donation, pointing out that $130,000 in cash, gift cards and “aid as a whole” has been shipped out of town to Fort McMurray, including four Integra Air flights bearing various help.
The raging early season wildfire that has torn through Fort McMurray, located about 435 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, has destroyed or damaged about 2,400 structures and more than 80,000 people have been evacuated.
Because of Fort McMurray’s enormous importance to Canada’s economy, analysts are scaling back projections about economic growth in the nation and insurers are calling the disaster “unprecedented.”
City of Fernie council yesterday also approved a donation of $5,000 to the Red Cross.
“Very proud of how Fernie residents have gone into donation mode very quickly to help our neighbours. This community has a history of jumping to action to help those in need. Thank you all. You are what makes this town so special,” stated Mayor Mary Giuliano on Facebook.