The future of our volunteer search and rescue programs has SAR groups concerned after funding was not included last weeks provincial budget. The province has 80 recognized search and rescue groups with 2,500 volunteers who respond to over 1,800 incidents annually across the province.
SAR will still receive money for each task (around $1,000 for a typical task) to cover expenses, but the money for training, new equipment, SAR prevention campaigns (AdventureSmart) and Critical Incident Stress Management has been eliminated. The annual support of $5m for the 80 SAR groups has been deleted from the budget.
When asked about the absence of SAR funding in the budget, Finance Minister Carole James said the NDP’s plan for SAR is still under discussion. “It’s certainly on the radar of the minister and those discussions, I know, will continue, to make sure we can provide support for the incredible volunteers and the incredible organizations. “We’re getting into avalanche season and we’ve seen the incredible work that they provide in communities,” she said.
“Current provincial SAR funding runs out on March 31 which means they will need to consider cutting programs.” said SAR director Jim McAllister. The SAR association has been in discussion with the province since 2013 about the need for guaranteed funding to continue operations. SAR was hoping for a yearly commitment from the NDP in Budget 2019. “What we’re saying to the province is fund it, and you figure out where the money comes from,” said McAllister.
SAR has changed dramatically in the last few years. The types of responses they deal with, the expectations of the public needing support and the health and safety requirements mean that the cost of equipment and training has increased exponentially.
Our Finance Minister, when challenged over the absence of SAR funding responded “it’s on the radar”. Simon Piney, Fernie SAR President commented. “In our world, when something is on our radar, we drop everything, at any time of the day or night and in any weather to go deal with it. We are hoping our Finance Minister means the same.”
“We are not looking to our supporters or our community to make donations to the group, we believe that those contributions have already been made in the form of taxes. We are simply hoping that the 0.01% of the BC Budget for this fiscal year that has been requested to support all our groups will be honoured.” said Piney.
If you feel that you would like to support SAR in this matter, please send an email to:
The Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General
The Honourable Carole James, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier