BC Chamber of Commerce Statement on the Impact of Natural Disasters on Businesses
In response to the closure of Highway 4 on Vancouver Island due to the Cameron Bluffs wildfire, and the impact that natural disasters are having on communities and businesses across the province, Fiona Famulak, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, released the following statement:
“On behalf of the BC Chamber of Commerce and our members, I want to thank the first responders, firefighters and many others, including volunteers, who are dealing with the wildfires across the province. The Cameron Bluffs wildfire is one of many, and has resulted in the closure of the only public highway connecting the communities of Port Alberni, Tofino, and Ucluelet with the rest of B.C. The closure is having a significant impact on both residents and businesses, the latter needing help as they face significant financial losses as a result of being severed from the rest of the province.
In past years, we have witnessed the impacts that wildfires, flooding, drought-like conditions, and severe heat waves have had on communities across B.C. and on our provincial infrastructure. These natural disasters are occurring more frequently and, often, with greater intensity.
It is only June 21, with a full summer and wildfire season ahead that is only likely to get worse. Sadly, small- and medium-sized businesses – the backbone of our provincial economy – bear much of the cost of the impacts of natural disasters.
When British Columbians are in crisis, there are programs and services available to ensure their needs are met. Our businesses – integral to the fabric and long-term health of our communities – are no less vulnerable and need similar assistance. Yet financial support is either not available or eligibility criteria are too narrow and do not take into account the myriad ways in which natural disasters impact businesses. We are therefore calling on the Government of B.C. to take urgent action to ensure government programs, such as Disaster Financial Assistance, acknowledge both the direct and indirect impacts of natural disasters, and have broader coverage so that greater support is available to businesses during and following natural disasters.
The reality is, the business continuity assistance programs currently in place were developed for a different time. All levels of government must therefore work together to address the needs of workers, business owners and communities when they are hit, directly or indirectly, by natural disasters that are having increasingly dire consequences.”