Reflecting on Fort Mac wildfires
Recent events in northern Alberta have given me renewed occasion to reflect on the kind of nation we are. The response to these tragic fires, both here in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan and across the country, has left me moved and inspired.
There has been a political response to these fires, of course, and so far, there’s been a general consensus about the kind of response we need to have. I’ve been pleased to give the federal government credit in cases where it is due, such as for their decision to match Red Cross donations, and for their provision of logistical support to the Alberta government as requested.
There have also been some areas of difference; for example, we have asked the government to provide matching support to other organizations as well. It is not, after all, only the Red Cross who are helping.
There has been a political response, yes, but the people didn’t wait for the politicians on this one. Businesses and individuals stepped up spontaneously. People donated, gathered items, and opened their homes to strangers. The work of those who are spontaneously helping evacuees is evident everywhere I go in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. I even came across a Great Clips giving free haircuts to evacuees.
In Ottawa, I had a chance to chat with Luc Berthold, my Conservative colleague and MP for Megantic-L’Erable, about what the people in Lac-Megantic in his riding are doing to support Fort McMurray. In 2013, a rail disaster in that community killed 47 people and wiped out much of the downtown core. The people of Lac-Megantic were deeply moved and feel an intense gratitude for the support they received from across the country, and they are now stepping up to help Fort McMurray.
Luc told Global News: “Three years ago it was our population that was struck down by tragedy, and all of Canada mobilized itself for us. Now, it’s our turn to support this community.”
In the ordinary cut and thrust of political debate, we often hear sharp regional differences between Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, and those of us in the West — whether we’re talking about equalization, the impact of environmental policy, EI, and so on. Those are certainly legitimate and important conversations.
Still, it’s nice to see that, underneath those political debates, when it comes to the things that really matter, we are quick to come together to support each other when needed. In spite of the pain and hardships of such tragedies, it is heartwarming that we can further deepen our connections with each other across Canada.
Helping Fort McMurray rebuild will be a long-term process. Unfortunately, too often the attention of national media shifts away from a crisis area long before the rebuilding work is actually done. Alberta MPs in particular will need to thank those across the country who are stepping up now, and also work to ensure that communities affected by this fire receive the sustained attention that they will need.
Garnett Genuis is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-467-4944. His office is located in the Park Place Professional Centre, Unit No. 214. Genuis was first elected in October 2015.
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2016