In Alberta, flood, drought and wildfire emergencies are most likely to happen during May and June, as seen with the Slave Lake fire of 2011, the Calgary and area floods of 2013, the Fort McMurray fire of 2016, and last year’s record wildfire season. Alberta is in the midst of its wildfire response this year, with multiple wildfires burning across the province. In addition, water shortages over multiple years have raised concerns of drought, though recent rain is helping.

Disaster can strike at any moment, and being prepared can save lives. It is crucial for the government to be able to respond quickly and decisively during emergencies to protect Albertans and the communities where they live. While Alberta already has a strong emergency management framework, the Emergency Statutes Amendment Act, 2024, would ensure the province has the necessary authority to more quickly and effectively manage emergencies.

“When an emergency strikes, we need to be able to pull together quickly. We need to be sure that, no matter which region of the province is affected by an emergency, we are able to have an all-hands-on-deck approach. Emergencies will happen in the future, but we can be better prepared for them when they come and that’s what we’re proposing to do.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

Emergency Management Act

Municipalities are critical partners in an emergency and have the best on-the-ground information that is needed for an emergency response. However, their resources are more limited than those available to the provincial government. Proposed amendments would ensure Alberta’s government can, when needed, assume authority over local emergency response efforts in situations where additional provincial oversight and support is required.

Circumstances where this enhanced authority may be assumed include:

  • where a local authority specifically asks for more assistance;
  • when a local authority’s council or staff may no longer be able respond due to the overwhelming and sudden nature of the event; or
  • where the event spans several jurisdictions and requires enhanced provincial coordination of resources.

In addition, to ensure the province has the best and most comprehensive information available to provide the right support at the right time, additional amendments would require local authorities to report more information to the province during a state of local emergency. This may include reporting on:

  • nature of an emergency;
  • powers the local authority intends to use during the state of local emergency;
  • actions already taken in response to the emergency;
  • resources utilized;
  • status of evacuation orders or alerts; and
  • establishment and location of reception or registration centres.

Local authorities will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day emergency planning and management within their jurisdictions, unless the situation needs a provincial response. The proposed changes would clearly define provincial authorities and would help foster co-ordination during particularly challenging situations.   

“The priority in any emergency, big or small, is the safety and well-being of all Albertans. These amendments underscore the government’s commitment to protecting lives and ensuring a swift and effective response to emergencies. By providing clearer mechanisms for government intervention and enhancing co-ordination efforts, we're strengthening our ability to keep Albertans and communities safe during times of crisis.”

Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services

The Forest and Prairie Protection Act

To ensure that emergencies are responded to in the most effective and efficient manner, proposed amendments would clarify and enhance the province’s discretionary authority to conduct emergency wildfire response on all provincial lands, both inside and out of the Forest Protection Area. Currently, emergency response in municipalities outside the Forest Protection Area is managed by local authorities and resources unless and until they request provincial assistance. If passed, these changes would help ensure that, when large or multi-jurisdictional wildfires occur, Alberta’s government can step in to support and potentially lead response efforts.

Proposed changes would also clarify the Alberta government’s authority to construct fireguards and allow the removal of buildings or structures in emergency situations when required by wildfire suppression efforts. Additionally, the act would be amended to include Metis Settlements and clarify that the government can take action to fight wildfires on any provincial lands, including Metis Settlements. Furthermore, amendments would require municipalities to report critical information to the province to make sure government can provide the appropriate support at the right time.

“Large, complex wildfires have become increasingly common in Alberta in recent years, and these events demand effective co-ordination between jurisdictions. The proposed amendments will ensure a robust response during wildfire emergencies by enabling Alberta’s government to actively support local authorities when additional provincial aid is needed or intervene if absolutely necessary.”

Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks

The Water Act

Proposed amendments would help government to protect the supply of water for all communities and ensure water is readily available for priority uses, including public health and safety needs, livestock welfare, critical infrastructure and critical environmental needs.

The changes would allow government to take key actions if an emergency is declared, including:

  • determine the priority of water use in the area;
  • direct water licence holders to change if, when or how they can divert water for use;
  • allow temporary low-risk water transfers between major water basins; and
  • exempt certain drought or flood mitigation activities from authorizations to speed up the process.

Alberta’s government would also expand the authority of the designated directors under the Water Act to make water available for priority uses in an emergency more efficient and reduce administrative delays. 

The proposed amendments could only be used if a water-related emergency is declared under the Water Act and would only apply to the geographic area designated within the emergency declaration. These changes would only be used as a last resort to help government act quickly if an emergency was declared.

“In emergencies, every second counts. With these amendments to the Water Act, we will be able to respond more quickly and effectively to protect communities, businesses and the environment when they need it most.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

The Election Act

Changes to the Election Act would move Alberta’s set election date from May to October so it does not coincide with the spring and summer wildfire, drought and flood season. If passed, the new set election date would be the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following the election day of the last general election. A set election date in the fall would decrease the likelihood of cabinet officials dealing with the challenge of a natural disaster during the election period.

Corresponding amendments to the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act and the Alberta Senate Election Act are required to align with the proposed new set election date. 

“With natural disasters like wildfires, drought, and floods more likely to occur in the spring and summer months, moving Alberta’s election date from May to October just makes sense. The change would also bring Alberta in line with other jurisdictions that already hold provincial elections in the fall.”

Mickey Amery, Minister of Justice

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