Province finds record funding for search and rescue
After being shutout in ‘Budget 2019’ by the provincial government, causing B.C.-wide backlash, ground search and rescue (GSAR) groups learned today that much-needed funds are on the way.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Emergency Management BC announced this morning (March 23) it is providing $18.6 million in one-time funding to GSAR groups throughout the province to be used over the next three years.
This funding will help the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) and GSAR groups bolster training, provide administrative support and equipment renewals. It also will support the province and BCSARA in work to develop and implement a new governance and funding model, the ministry outlined in a media release.
“In discussions with BCSARA, I’ve heard the ground search and rescue community’s strong concerns about the need for both an immediate infusion of funding and a clearer path toward long-term sustainable funding,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “That’s why we’re providing a record-level of funding as an immediate top-up of what B.C.’s GSAR groups are already receiving, as well as establishing a joint committee to move more quickly toward developing a sustainable funding model.”
The $18.6 million represents the single largest provincial GSAR investment in B.C.’s history – a 24% increase from $5 million per year in supplemental funding announced in 2016.
As well, Emergency Management BC has funding for two additional staff positions to work with BCSARA on the development and implementation of a new governance and funding model.
“On behalf of the 80 ground search and rescue groups and 2,500 members across the province, our thanks to the provincial government for the single largest influx of funding for search and rescue to date,” said Chris Kelly, president, BCSARA. “The funds will provide critical core supports over the next three years, while final details are completed in the short term on a sustainable model.”
Representatives from Emergency Management BC and BCSARA will create a partnership committee, which will set policy direction and consistent standards for search and rescue, and a management committee, which will make joint decisions on the distribution of funding to B.C.’s 80 search and rescue groups.
This new funding is in addition to funding that the province already provides each year – $9 million in 2017-18 – to cover GSAR operational costs for deployment, as well as training and equipment costs, and the insurance and liability for the 80 groups serving B.C.
The province’s 2,500 registered search and rescue volunteers provide a vital public safety service for citizens and visitors, responding to more than 1,600 incidents each year.