Rachel Notley's NDP unwittingly sabotaged this year's wildfire season on their way out the door.
The Chuckegg Creek Wildfire has been blazing in Northern Alberta for about a month now, with 3 evacuation orders affecting the region and the Métis settlement of Paddle Prairie losing over a dozen homes to the out of control flames.
Fires are nothing new — they're an annual occurrence Albertans plan for. However, the NDP’s mishandling of fire season has been a pretty recent development.
CBC, to their credit, investigated why the Chuckegg Creek fire got so out of control so fast after being tipped off by the union representing the people who man the province’s 127 fire watchtowers.
In November 2018, NDP changed how fire watchers are paid overtime and how many hours they can work. Then to save money after the overtime changes resulted in increased costs, according to CBC,
“...the ministry prorated the observers' pay based on the severity of the wildfire threat and they also were not allowed to work more than 12 hours a day. The union said many staff were blindsided by the changes, which it estimated cut observers' pay between 30 and 60 per cent. More than 60 grievances were filed and several seasoned observers quit.”
But this didn't stop CBC from trying to blame the UCP and the new minister in charge, Devin Dreeshen, for not reversing the changes before the Chuckegg fire whipped up in an earlier report about the forestry cuts, writing,
“Dreeshen said the government will work with the Union to resolve the issue. His statement didn't address why his ministry didn't act before the fire season.”
Unfortunately for the CBC and everyone else affected, the fire was already burning out of control for days before the UCP MLAs were sworn into government. The very day the new government officially took office, May 21, there was an evacuation order issued for High Level.
Regular viewers will know that this isn't the first time the NDP tried to fix a problem in the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry that wasn’t there and ended up with a huge mess on their hands.
Today we'll take a walk down memory lane together, back to Bill 6 and to the days leading up to the Fort McMurray Wildfire where our exclusive investigation revealed how NDP's budget cuts caused all the water bomber contracts to be canceled and hastily rewritten.