Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence
Issue 9 - Evidence, January 30, 2007
EDMONTON, Tuesday, January 30, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 8:30 p.m. to examine and report
on the national security policy of Canada.
Senator Colin Kenny (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, which I have the
good fortune of chairing. Before we begin, I would like to introduce the members of the committee who are here.
Senator Michael Meighen is the deputy chair of the committee. He is a lawyer and a member of the bars of Quebec and
Ontario. He is the chancellor of the University of King's College and past chair of the Stratford Festival. Currently he
is Chair of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs and a member of the Senate Banking Committee as well as the
Senate Fisheries Committee.
Senator Gerry St. Germain is from British Columbia. He is one of the older members of Parliament, having served
in Parliament since 1983, first as a member of the House of Commons and then as a senator. Currently, he is Chair of
the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and he sits on the Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of
Senator Wilfred Moore, from Halifax, is a lawyer with an extensive record of community involvement. He has
served for 10 years on the Board of Governors of Saint Mary's University. He also sits on the Standing Senate
Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and on the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.
To my left is Senator Tommy Banks from Alberta. One always wants to say, ``who needs no introduction in this
town.'' He was called to the Senate following a 50-year career in the entertainment industry. He is Chair of the
Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.
Senator Norm Atkins from Ontario came to the Senate with 27 years of experience in the field of communications.
He served as a senior advisor to federal Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, to Premier William Davis of Ontario,
and to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Senator Joseph Day from New Brunswick is Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. He is a
member of the bars of New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec and a fellow of the Intellectual Property Institute of
Canada. He is also a former president and CEO of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association.
Colleagues, today we have the good fortune to have before us first responders from the Government of Alberta. Mr.
Mark Egener is the Managing Director of Emergency Management Alberta. He was recently asked by the Government
of Alberta to assume this position pending a search for a permanent deputy head of the agency in order to assist in the
establishment of a world-class management system in this province. He is an internationally recognized expert in crisis
and risk management and has worked for many years in both the public and the private sectors. From 1956 until 1979
he was a member of the Canadian Forces and served in a number of national and international appointments.
With him is Mr. Colin Blair, the Director of Operations and Training for Emergency Management Alberta. Mr.
Blair coordinates operational readiness, individual and collective training, and emergency management policy. Prior to
joining Emergency Management Alberta, Mr. Blair completed 20 years of service with the Canadian Forces as an army
logistics officer. In 2003 he was awarded the United States Bronze Star for his effort commanding service support
soldiers in the Afghanistan War Against Terrorism.
Welcome to the committee.
Mark Egener, Managing Director, Emergency Management Alberta, Government of Alberta: Thank you very much,
Senator Kenny. Honourable senators, it is a privilege to be here. I am familiar with your previous reports, and I have
given you notes that are much more detailed than my presentation will be.
Unlike several people who have appeared before your committee, I will not make many complaints. I will use this
opportunity to explain what Alberta is doing to upgrade its emergency management system. I think it is relatively
typical of what is happening in many places in Canada. Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta are all in the
process of significantly improving their emergency management systems. While my comments relate directly to
Alberta, I think they will apply generally across the country.
Risks everywhere are increasing. I direct your attention particularly to slides 4 and 5, which illustrate the frequency
of events. Those are now just natural disasters —
The Chairman: Could you give us the title of the slides, so that we are sure we are looking at the right ones.
Mr. Egener: I am referring to page 2, slides 4 and 5: ``Cost of Disasters Skyrocketing'' and ``Number of Incidents
Growing.'' I do not need to say any more about those.
The Chairman: Our slide deck appears to be a bit different. We have ``Strengthening Alberta's Emergency
Mr. Egener: It would be on page 4.
The Chairman: Yes, I have it now. Thank you.
Mr. Egener: I am not going to explain those slides. I think that they illustrate very clearly what is going on, not only
in the world, but in Canada.
Recently we have had a number of large-scale disasters in Alberta; in particular, a year and a half ago now, there
was the Wabamun train derailment, which is on page 7.
No people were killed in that incident, but 41 freight cars carrying bunker C fuel oil and a nasty lubrication oil
spilled into Lake Wabamun, a catastrophic event for the community and a disaster for the environment.
Following that, Alberta formed the Environmental Protection Commission, chaired by Eric Newell, former head of
Syncrude and now chancellor of the University of Alberta. The commission comprised six other members — all also
leading national experts in disaster management — and benefited from a number of expert advisors. The commission's
report, which I believe you have, outlined ten recommendations to strengthen Alberta's emergency management
system and move it towards a world-class system to protect the safety and security of Albertans. We are currently
implementing those ten recommendations. I will quickly address each one in turn, and if you would like it you can ask
for more detail during questions.
The first recommendation was to set up a senior agency that reports directly to Executive Council, which in federal
government language would be the Privy Council Office, so that it can use its muscle to coordinate the activities of the
major line departments of government. The same thing has happened in Ontario with the Commissioner of Emergency
Management and in the United States with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, which is a separate
agency within Homeland Security. The same thing has happened in Quebec as well.
The simple fact is that major line departments cannot tell other major line departments what to do without getting
into a fight. However, an independent agency that reports directly to the premier's office is trusted and able to do that
kind of job with the big departments of government.
Second, the commission recommended the establishment of an institute to support the whole function in Alberta.
This is probably the most innovative of their recommendations. They found that there were several things that
governments were not equipped or well-positioned to do, such as research, evaluations of incidents, and collecting
lessons learned from around the world. Therefore, they recommended the establishment of an institute based on a
major educational or research institution, such as the University of Alberta, to support the whole function.
The third recommendation deals with changing the culture of response so that we behave more like fire
departments. In other words, when the alarms go off, you appear with everything that you might need at the scene, and
if you do not need it, you send it back. That is not typically the way that the senior governments in the country, the
federal or the provincial governments, react to emergencies, but the commission said clearly that we need to change.
There is no time to add things later. We need to respond more fully and then withdraw what is not needed.
The fourth recommendation deals specifically with the environment. The environmental aspects of disasters and of
emergencies are growing, and the environment department needs to be more prepared. I guess that would apply across
The fifth step, to significantly step up emergency response training and simulation exercises, is very much in line
with the recommendations that this committee produced in its March 2004 report.
The sixth recommendation calls for adopting a more holistic approach to the whole process using a risk-
management approach. This is very important because it gets emergency preparedness and response people into
prevention and mitigation, which really they have not been allowed to do before. That is where we will save money and
save lives, by preventing emergencies from happening in the first place.
The seventh recommendation deals with the communications aspects of the emergency management system. There
are five communications aspects: warnings and alerts; media relations, to do with communications that are made
during an event; risk communications, regarding talking to the public about risk and whether they are at risk from
certain events; emergency management communications during incidents; and communications infrastructure.
It never fails to surprise us it that all the cellphones go out when there is an emergency, but why should we be
surprised? You need only think about it to realize that that vital link of communications is going to fail every time.
Why do disasters always happen in dead spots in radio systems? That is where Murphy says they will happen. Thus we
are looking to strengthen the whole communications infrastructure, which we need to respond effectively.
The commission's eighth recommendation is to resolve jurisdictional issues. It will be no surprise to this committee
that that is on our list. We have continuing problems with railway jurisdictions, with fisheries and oceans jurisdictions,
with port jurisdictions, not specifically in Alberta but everywhere. You need to sort that stuff out in advance.
Finally, there is a reminder about what the emergency management system really is. The provincial government has
a number of responsibilities for running agencies such as the one I head up. The key departments have strong roles to
play, as you would know, in health, energy, transportation, and so on. The municipalities and their first-response
forces are a very big component of the emergency management system, and often forgotten are the industry folks and
their emergency management responsibilities and their teams.
All of this is supported by the federal government resources of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada,
the Department of National Defence and some of the key departments like Health Canada, Transport Canada,
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and others. That whole group is part of the emergency management system.
I am remiss in not mentioning that Alberta's Environmental Protection Commission was informed a great deal by
your committee's March 2004 report, National Emergencies: Canada's Fragile Front Lines. That document is
referenced several times in the commission's report.
We have issues with the public warning and alert system, the national mitigation program, and disaster financial
assistance arrangements. All of these issues were raised at a recent federal/provincial/territorial ministers' meeting in
Vancouver, and working them out has been given high priority by the federal government.
As you will hear from other people today, there is also difficulty with the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear
and explosive, or CBRNE, response capacity in the country and with urban search and rescue.
In conclusion, we have a road map leading to a much enhanced emergency and risk management regime for this
province. It is typical of what is happening in many places in the country. Alberta has chosen to move towards a world-
class system. We need to have a more productive partnership with the federal government to move us along.
The Chairman: You ended on a very interesting note that I am sure we pursue.
Senator Banks: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Blair, do you have anything to add before we proceed with the questions?
Colin Blair, Director of Operations and Training, Emergency Management Alberta, Government of Alberta: No, not
at this time.
Senator Banks: Gentlemen, thank you for being with us this morning. Your familiarity with the concerns we have
expressed in the past eliminates the need to cover a lot of background. As the chair said, the ending of your remarks
leads to the question at hand.
You mentioned the Wabamun event, which bumps into the concerns of a committee that I have the honour to chair.
I will try not to bootleg questions.
The Chairman: Senator Banks, you bootleg whatever you would like.
Senator Banks: Alberta has a particular set of challenges and a responsibility in the country — and the country,
therefore, to Alberta — with respect to a specific kind of infrastructure, sometimes involving rail lines, very often
pipelines. The infrastructure having to do with energy in this province is regulated quite heavily, but it is 85 per cent
owned, operated, maintained and protected by private enterprise. The security of that infrastructure, which is provided
by the people who own and operate it, is a matter of great public concern.
I would like you to talk about that and about the relationships among the federal agencies and the various other
first responders in a disaster. I believe Natural Resources Canada, NRCan, would be the lead agency in the event of a
problem having to do with the energy infrastructure.
What is the present landscape, looking in both directions from your office? To the left, if you like, not up, are the
feds. How is that relationship? Are things better than they were a few years ago? To the right are the municipalities.
How is your relationship with them with respect to their first response to such events?
Tell us how we can answer your last question, regarding improving those relationships, particularly with the federal
government. What precisely needs to be improved? What are you missing? What are you not getting that you need
from the feds?
Mr. Egener: I would agree with you. You will hear from two of our major municipalities shortly. We are very
comfortable with our relationship with the municipalities, although it is never perfect and there are many things we
have to do. I mentioned that we are upgrading our system, and the municipalities are part of our system. Improvement
is not all related to money. It is related to working together, cooperation, exercises, training and better understanding.
Our municipalities are always under financial pressures. Their response forces are enormous and expensive.
Edmonton is talking about $350 million a year to look after its emergency forces.
I would like to go back to the general thrust of your question, dealing with Alberta's energy sector, which is a
national interest, to make sure that it is able to function properly and that it is safe. The federal agency responsible for
that is the National Energy Board, located in Calgary, and the parallel provincial agency is the Alberta Energy and
Utilities Board, also located in Calgary and headed by Neil McCrank, whom I think you know.
They have a very active regime of safety programs and safety regulations for the energy industry. On some aspects
the energy industry may not be in the forefront of thinking, but in the field of safety they are. They have established a
petroleum industry training centre, called Enform, to ensure that people are trained and know what to do. They have
cooperatives to deal with oil spills and releases. We are an active participant with Enform on exercise matters dealing
with sour gas releases, pipeline ruptures and other catastrophic events of that nature. We cannot deal with every
eventuality, but we can make sure that the system is able and ready to deal with every eventuality.
In my view, the top risks to Alberta and its infrastructure in this area are related to the transportation of energy
materials. The rail lines go right through the middle of our highest density cities and they carry millions of tonnes of
hazardous materials related to the energy industry. Pipelines collect and move product all across Alberta and to the
rest of the country. We are very sensitive to the nodes of that transportation system. They receive special attention. I
would say that four of the top ten high risks in Alberta, are related to energy product movement, and we are very
conscious of them.
Senator Banks: There are federal programs designed to assist the provinces and the municipalities in those
responses. Are those federal programs working, as far as you are concerned? Are you getting what you need and what
is fair to obtain for your efforts from those federal programs?
Mr. Egener: The relevant federal programs are the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, JEPP, and the money
that has been spent on CBRNE response equipment. You will hear from the municipalities what they think of those
two programs, but you can guess there is never enough money.
Senator Banks: What do you think of them?
Mr. Egener: There is never enough money, and there is never enough attention. I think we need to pay more
attention to them. When I talk about areas of cooperation, the focus in the federal government is largely on process.
The focus at the municipal level and, to a lesser extent, at our level is on results. My comment is not meant to be
critical; it is just a matter of fact. We have very different foci.
The federal government will talk about spending so much money. We talk about what kind of capacity you get for
that money. They talk about the numbers of people devoted to doing this, that, and the other. We talk about the
results; what do those numbers accomplish?
There is a real disconnect in that area. The feds do have a very good regional group. Public Safety and Emergency
Preparedness Canada has a regional director here, with whom we work closely, but I think we need to get down to
more results-oriented work. Less process, more results: that is my summary of where we need to go.
Senator Banks: We need to take that very much to heart, because if all three orders of government are not working
with the same set of criteria, with the same objectives, and with the same achievements in mind, then they are unlikely
to be successful. You said you do not mean to be critical, but we want you to be critical. That is why we are here, to
find out how we can help improve the cooperation between those orders of government, including who is in charge
here, who is driving the bus today when a disaster happens. The results orientation that you are talking about is
necessary for that.
My last question for this round has to do with interoperability of communications. Very often when a post-mortem
is done on an event, a problem that surfaces is the fact that one agency could not communicate properly another and
this function did not get a message from the people over there. In Alberta, what is the capacity of first responders to
communicate among themselves in those dead areas, for example?
Mr. Egener: That is a difficult question because the number of communication facilities is so large now.
Communication is not as simple as it used to be, but I think we are reaching a point where we are on pretty firm
ground. Alberta is putting in a new backbone system that will guarantee emergency communications by radio right
across the province, with no dead spots and lots of capacity.
We all, including the emergency forces, continue to rely on cellphones and wireless laptops. Every fire truck has a
laptop in it now, and when that system goes down, they are in serious trouble. Certainly we are not at the end of the
tunnel on guaranteed cellphone and wireless communications; we would like to see that capacity strengthened, and that
requires a cooperative effort between the provinces and the federal government. The rest of the communication systems
are in hand. There will always be trouble with them, but we do have an extremely good radio system coming into place.
Along with cellphone and wireless communications, we really need to improve the public warning system. That has
been one of the top three priorities on the minister's agenda for many years. When I was in this same job 12 years ago it
was at the top of the list and it is still there, and nothing has been done about it. Alberta has the only functioning public
warning system in the country. We put it into place in 1989, following the tornado in Edmonton in 1987. By 1991 the
public warning system was province-wide. It is still the only one, which is dreadful.
Senator Banks: Are you talking about the system that is operated by CKUA Radio Network?
Mr. Egener: Through CKUA. All the radio and television networks agreed that trained people could override all of
their broadcasts in a particular area if they needed to, and that still works.
Senator Banks: All but one, actually. I think one network said no. In any case, I am glad that that system is still up
Mr. Egener: Like me, it is getting old.
Senator Banks: But it works.
Mr. Egener: Yes, it still works.
Senator Day: We have heard about this system a number of times from Senator Banks, who is quite excited that
Alberta has this program. Was it entirely volunteer, or were there provincially generated regulations or a law?
Mr. Egener: There are no regulations or law. It was a matter of sitting down after the tornado hit and asking
ourselves how we could have done better. When the problem was put out there, the TV stations said they could help
solve it. It was a voluntary, cooperative effort.
We have a dial-in system to CKUA, which then just puts the message through. All of the TV and radio stations have
agreed that that warning system will pre-empt their programming and they do not have to vet it. The message goes
right onto their television or radio station and overrides whatever is on. If the warning pertains only to a certain area, it
will be broadcast in that area. If the situation is province-wide, the message will be broadcast province-wide. The media
have been very cooperative. The public warning system has been in place for almost 20 years now.
Senator Day: Has it ever been used?
Mr. Egener: Yes, we use it all the time. However, it was not used to alert people in Wabamun. We asked why, but
there was no answer. I think we need to make sure that more people are trained and familiar with the system.
The mayor and a couple of other people in every municipality are authorized to use the system. They have a code,
and once they dial that in the messaging is instantaneous. The problem is that the system works only through TV and
radio, not cellphones or other communications devices. This is where the system needs to be upgraded. Industry
Canada is involved in that; they are always on the verge of having some magic box that will do everything, but we
never quite get there. Our position is why not start with what you can do and build up from there. Our system is still
Senator Banks: If you had your druthers, would such a system be mandatory rather than voluntary? Not necessarily
in Alberta, because you do things differently here, but would those things be required of communications systems
Mr. Egener: You could do that, Senator Banks. There is no reason why this system should not work elsewhere. We
have had it long enough to know that there are no down sides. It is not going to destroy the revenue of the television
stations. The message appears as a banner across the bottom of the screen, so you can still watch the hockey game but
you see that there is a sour gas release or a train wreck.
The Chairman: As you know, we have referred to this in our reports. Did Alberta intervene before the Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, when they were considering this matter?
Mr. Egener: I do not know. Perhaps Mr. Blair knows.
Mr. Blair: We put in a joint application with a few municipalities, Strathcona County, and Northeast Region
Community Awareness and Emergency Response, NR CAER, which included Fort Saskatchewan. I believe
Edmonton was also involved. Our application was to get reverse 9-1-1 capabilities, which we foresee down the road.
While we have messages over the air, over radio and television now, we eventually want to be able to leverage the other
communications capabilities. We provided our support to that application, and we are still waiting for an answer from
The Chairman: We are of the view that the proposal before the CRTC is too modest. We are also of the view that
participation in the public warning system should be a condition of licensing and be automatic from that point on.
When a network or station tries to renew its licence, if they have not signed onto the system, there is no renewal.
Could you return to Senator Banks' question about the relationships between the different orders of government? In
our initial report three years ago, we expressed our hope that the three orders would discuss together the issues that
were causing them grief at different levels. We recognize that there are constitutional impediments to that. However, it
just seemed logical that everybody would come to the table at the same time rather than the feds talking to the province
and the province talking to the municipalities. We hoped that collectively the three orders of government would sort
through the most reasonable way to serve the same citizens. Have you accomplished that here?
Mr. Egener: I think so, Mr. Chairman. I think a lot more discussion is taking place amongst the various orders of
government. For example, this year again the federal, provincial and territorial ministers met. They recognize the
importance of the subject matter. They agreed to meet every year, not just when there is a burning issue to be discussed.
The senior officials and people at the level of the deputy minister are meeting twice a year.
The Chairman: With respect, sir, I was really asking where the city is in that. Will the mayor say, ``But I was not at
Mr. Egener: The mayor is not at that meeting. A point that your committee has dealt with in the past and that I have
dealt with, because I am the author of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' report on the matter, is that the
municipalities need to be there. The question is what vehicle will they use to be at the table.
The Chairman: It takes someone to say, ``I am hosting a meeting; do you want to come?''
Senator Meighen: You could give them a free lunch.
The Chairman: There is no free lunch. You have to come, and you have to work.
We all recognize what the Constitution says; we know that the municipalities are creatures of the province.
However, they clearly have something to say, and one would like to think that there could be a forum that did not
trample on anybody's constitutional rights and that allowed at least a discussion. The decision-making process may be
different, but surely the discussion process could include everybody.
Mr. Egener: I could not agree more. There is no reason why the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Big City
Mayors Caucus could not have a seat at any of the tables we have talked about without trampling on anybody's
The Chairman: Do you think Alberta would take the initiative to suggest that at the next meeting?
Mr. Egener: We could. I have taken the initiative many times in other forums, and I have written many reports
Mr. Blair was telling me this morning that we will renew and strengthen the emergency management partnership we
have with industry, municipalities and the provincial government. It is a forum where we get together and simply talk
about issues. We have lots of forums in the country.
The Chairman: I am pressing you a bit on this question because whenever we raise it with the federal minister
responsible, regardless of which party he is with, we get the same answer: ``Oh, well, we would, but the provinces would
not like it. It would interfere.'' That marginalizes the proposal. It is refreshing to be talking to a representative of the
province who says that that is actually not a bad idea. If this committee is able to say, ``Look, we know of some
provinces who think this is a terrific idea,'' that would help to get the federal government moving.
Mr. Egener: Yes, sir. I think it is a good idea.
Senator Meighen: In Alberta, if I am not mistaken, other than pandemics, the natural disaster threats come largely
from the natural resource industry on which Alberta's wealth depends so heavily. I am thinking of pipelines in
particular. Many of the pipelines belong to private corporations, several of whom are not owned in this country, let
alone this province. Do you have difficulty getting precise information as to the location of storage facilities or
pipelines for oil and/or gas, for example? Are some companies reluctant to divulge such information on the grounds
that it could be of competitive assistance to other companies?
Mr. Egener: To the best of my knowledge, there is no difficulty at all about that. The regulatory agencies, the
National Energy Board and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, have no difficulty in that regard either. Mr. Blair
may be more up to date on the details, but as I understand it, there is no problem finding out what is where.
Mr. Blair: This ties in with Senator Banks' comments that 85 per cent of the critical infrastructure is owned by the
private sector. Of course, the oil and gas sector is highly regulated. They have very impressive risk-control measures.
The industry is responsible for reporting to the board regularly on all of its infrastructure. That information is shared
To get right to the technical aspects, we have geographic information on all the pipelines and wellheads in the
province. That information is updated by the board on a monthly basis. If we are getting into the specifics of
coordinating with industry and other orders of government, we have the capability right now to zoom in and see
exactly what it is there. If a pipeline ruptures or a wellhead goes, we can pinpoint the longitude of its location.
Senator Meighen: Thank you. That is good to hear.
What is the state of completion of Calgary's urban search and rescue, USAR, team? Is it up to the desired level of
training and confidence? Vancouver is very proud that its UN-certified USAR team went to New Orleans after the
Katrina disaster. Are there provisions for Calgary's unit to be deployed rapidly to other locations in the province
should the need arise?
Mr. Blair: You will likely hear about that in greater detail from the City of Calgary. Obviously, establishing USAR
capability across the country is an excellent idea. The strategy has some shortcomings with respect to sustainability,
which I believe we, the City of Calgary and the feds will work through together, including a memorandum of
understanding on when and how it would be deployed within the province, within the country, or internationally.
Some of those aspects are still in the mill and we working through the details. I pointed out the aspect of sustaining
the capability. While there is an initial funding envelope to get the capability in place, there will also be requirements
for operations and maintenance costs associated with training, maintaining equipment and ensuring that the capability
is going to last. We need to discuss that with the feds and the city to make sure that we have a long-term, sustainable
Senator Meighen: Is sustainability largely a question of dollars?
Mr. Blair: Yes, definitely. As it stands, we have an initial funding envelope from the federal government.
Unfortunately, there was nothing from the provincial government, and now the municipality is wondering how we will
keep it going. Where will the money come from?
Senator Meighen: What about hours of work?
The Chairman: In other words, how long can they keep going?
Mr. Blair: Are you referring to the existing capability?
The Chairman: Is it 72 hours?
Senator Meighen: Is it 48 hours?
The Chairman: How long can they keep going? Are there replacement crews to work the equipment?
Mr. Blair: Right, right.
The Chairman: For how long can they sustain once they deploy?
Mr. Blair: You would have to ask Calgary. I do not know the specifics of that. Right now they are looking at
establishing some strategic bonds with the STARS Emergency Link Center, which is based in Calgary, to bring in
additional volunteers to extend their operational capabilities.
Senator Banks: Mr. Blair, tell us what STARS is, in case some of us do not know.
Mr. Egener: It is the helicopter rescue program.
Senator Meighen: If an event in Edmonton clearly called for a USAR unit, would that be problematic at this point?
Mr. Blair: Not really. They have indicated that they are capable of putting together their team within the timelines
of six hours, deployable in 24 hours. Of course, going from Calgary to Edmonton would be by road. Air deployability
would be another question.
I would say that they currently have certain limitations, but we are working through those issues with them.
Mr. Egener: The USAR capacity was developed in response to earthquake risks. Calgary and Edmonton are not
sitting in earthquake zones; we are not anticipating large structural collapses. However, the USAR unit in Calgary was
intended to be taken into British Columbia in that situation. Similarly, the units in the East were developed largely for
the earthquake zone around Ottawa and Montreal.
There is still a need for urban search and rescue capacity, but the unit that was developed for re-entry into British
Columbia or for earthquakes has quite a different capacity than you need to take people out of a collapsed stadium or
that sort of thing. For example, Edmonton's capacity with cranes and heavy rescue equipment is pretty good for the
kind of collapse of structure that you would expect here from snow. USAR capacity was largely developed for the
massive destruction that happens in a huge earthquake zone.
Senator Meighen: I would like to touch on the area of working arrangements with the Canadian Forces. Is there a
protocol in place? Is it largely for the regular forces, or are the reserves fully implicated? How does it work?
Mr. Egener: The protocols are in place. Edmonton Garrison is home to Land Force Western Area command. We
have frequent discussions with the staff at the Edmonton Garrison. We have had recent practice in Western Canada:
forest fires in British Columbia, which we responded to from here, and the Winnipeg floods, which Land Force
Western Area responded to as well. It is a high priority on the military side. I do not think there is any difficulty in that
area at all. We are quite comfortable with that relationship.
Mr. Blair: Our linkage with Joint Task Force Western is quite strong. They have a liaison officer for Alberta who
links up with us on a regular basis, along with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada's regional office.
Obviously, we view using regular forces as a force of last resort.
Joint Task Force Western is attempting to establish reserve liaison officers, and once they are trained, we anticipate
having them link up with our district officers, our liaison staff to the municipalities.
Mr. Egener: Did the members of the committee read Jack Granatstein's article in the National Post this morning?
The Chairman: The hotel we are staying at is not generous enough to provide us with the National Post, so we have
not seen it yet.
Mr. Egener: The National Post published a provocative article from a book Jack Granatstein just wrote, which deals
with catastrophic earthquakes and the question of whether we are at the end of our capacity.
The Chairman: Regarding the militia, we received evidence in other provinces from militia commanders who said,
essentially, do not count on them. Many of their people are policemen, firemen and other first responders, and they
may well be otherwise occupied in the event of a natural disaster. The other issue is that reserve involvement is
voluntary. They do not have to come if they do not want to. Presumably you have taken those considerations into
account in dealing with the liaison officers?
Mr. Blair: Yes, we have. I am a reservist, so I understand wearing two hats and which hat takes priority.
The regular force is the last resort — we will use all existing capability we have through the emergency management
framework first — and the reserves are well behind the regular force. There is no expectation that the reserve
component will be there with first responders or even second responders.
The Chairman: I was in Calgary, on the 32nd floor of a building, during the 1984 earthquake and I can assure you it
was a terrifying experience. I had to crawl to my desk.
The last time we were here, it was described to us that the demarcation line is Red Deer; that is, Red Deer North was
dealt with by Edmonton and Red Deer South by Calgary. One presumes that the USAR unit would have a much
broader scope and would be prepared to move further, assuming we resolve the funding issues.
Mr. Egener: That is, I think, an accurate description. The funding issue that needs to be resolved is sustaining
The Chairman: Is it salaries, not equipment?
Mr. Egener: It is not equipment. It is sustaining funding. Tossing money out to create a capacity is only the
beginning, especially a capacity that is largely linked to a federal responsibility. CBRNE hazards are largely a federal
government responsibility, and re-entry with heavy urban search and rescue is a role that the federal government has
Now they have to sustain it. That is the issue. You will hear from Edmonton and Calgary that both have difficulty
with ongoing training and replacing equipment, those continual costs of maintaining a capacity. Maybe we need to be
more credible in our explanation to the federal authorities about why this resource needs to be sustained.
Senator Atkins: I want to talk specifically about training. As we know, there are professionals and there are
volunteers. In the training that you provide, is there a different program for the different groups? What kind of results
do you get in training volunteers?
Mr. Blair: Each order of government provides a certain level of training, and I would need a large piece of paper to
draw out how all those pieces interact with the emergency management. Municipalities are conducting their own
training, whether for first responders or for emergency managers.
In the past we have had a provincial grant program to allow municipalities to bring in trainers. Now we are slowly
evolving to provide our own emergency management training officers to provide a suite of emergency management
courses so that we can maintain a standard and be able to project that out directly to the municipalities.
Federally, the Canadian Emergency Management College is also providing training to the municipalities. We are
trying to reach into industry as well to bring everybody together. As Mr. Egener indicated, we are trying to change the
culture, and not only for the first responders or the emergency managers but also for the population at large. They all
form part of the framework. That change has to be done through education.
We have been working closely with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada to look at establishing a
national training strategy. Provincially we now have to consider what our training strategy will be, because I do not
think we fully realize what the ongoing requirement is to sustain a minimum level of capability in emergency
management. That means we have to work more closely with municipalities to ensure that we know what the training
needs are, what the divisional responsibility is, and what we have to do to maintain that minimum level of capability.
I suggest that we are headed in the right direction, but there is still more work to be done.
Mr. Egener: Senator Atkins, I would like to give you a somewhat higher-level answer to that question. We are
doubling our training capacity right now, but the piece that is missing, the piece that we will be undertaking, is a
training-gap analysis. What is the real training need in the province, and how is it being met now? We do not know the
answer to that. This is part of the recommendations of the commission. We will be undertaking a full training-gap
analysis so that we can answer that question much better than we can now.
Currently there is a patchwork of training. The feds provide training through the Canadian Emergency
Preparedness College; we are doing some training; municipalities, industry and the community colleges all do some
training; universities do some education. We just do not know if that fully meets the need. Actually, I can tell you it
does not fully meet the need, but where are the major gaps?
Senator Atkins: The question also is how seriously people who are in training take the job. For instance, in
Vancouver we heard that they send a number of people to Ottawa for training on an annual basis. I assume Alberta
does the same thing. The complaint in Vancouver was that they should perhaps have a regional training centre that
would focus on concerns that relate to Western Canada. Also, they are not happy with the funding and whom they can
send. Do you have any comments with regard to that?
Mr. Egener: There are two parts to that question. One is the question about certifying people's skills. The idea of
certifying the various training levels for emergency management has been rattling around for a number of years now. I
think we have reached the point where we have to start regularizing and certifying qualifications so that when
somebody comes into your organization as a certified emergency manager, you know that they are in fact qualified and
have received certain training.
With respect to institutional capacities, British Columbia has the Justice Institute, JIBC, which provides a lot of
emergency management training of very good calibre. The Canadian Emergency Management College, which is run by
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada in Ottawa, has a number of good courses. We run some good
courses too, but whether altogether the institutional capacity is sufficient is a difficult question. I think it is not.
We will be looking at it from our perspective to see where we need to fill in around us. Certainly the other end of it is
some kind of certification mechanism, and I think we are getting ready to tackle that. More and more people are
talking about it. It is time to bite the bullet and do it.
Senator Atkins: There are national issues or events that cover the spectrum, and I assume that the training provided
in Ottawa addresses those, but the impression I got in Vancouver is that they cannot send the number of people they
would like to take that training because of the costs, and they would welcome some other training opportunity in
The other question I have for you is about testing the training. You can have all kinds of written guidelines for how
to prepare someone to be involved in emergency management, but, for volunteers, is there any way of testing whether
they are absorbing the kind of instruction that is provided?
Mr. Egener: The way we do that is through exercising — actually practising. We encourage municipalities and
industry and our provincial government agencies to run as many exercises as they can to assess whether people are able
to do what they are supposed to do. We test by using simulations and exercises, and we will be upgrading quite
massively the amount of exercise and simulation work that we are doing.
The other part is to make sure that people are familiar with the people they will be working with when something
happens, and you can really only do that through exercises. The exercises do not need to be expensive, full-blown
simulations. You can get people who would work on a issue together around a table and do a table-top exercise for
very little expense, and that will provide a good test of the capacity that is there.
Senator Atkins: Are the people involved in those exercises all professionals?
Mr. Egener: Some of them are double-hatted professionals. We get industry people involved.
There are not many volunteers who would come into play in a situation. The big one is the family unit, making sure
that the family is able to cope with power outages and dislocation of services for up to 72 hours. We are very pleased to
see Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada running its public service announcements again on that subject.
I noticed that Senator Kenny attended the conference in Ottawa with his water bottle and his 72-hour kit.
The Chairman: On the subject of training, the committee is very concerned about interoperability. No community,
no province has enough people. When the balloon goes up, almost inevitably assistance will be needed from other
communities, other provinces or elsewhere.
A challenge that we are concerned about a great deal is whether the doctrine is the same. Will people be
interoperable? Will we have the capacity to minimize the time it takes for people coming from outside to integrate into
an ongoing operation?
Mr. Egener: I agree that that is a key aspect, and the answer is yes, yes, and yes. We have regional mutual aid
agreements throughout all of Alberta for the municipalities to work together. They do practice and exercise that, and
we have recently adopted the Incident Command System for the whole province so that we will not have different
systems being used.
The Chairman: Is it consistent with British Columbia's and Saskatchewan's systems?
Mr. Egener: The Incident Command System is international, certainly within North America.
The Chairman: But are your neighbouring provinces using it?
Mr. Egener: At the moment Alberta is moving everything into the Incident Command System. I believe British
Columbia is on the Incident Command System as well. I am not sure that it is true everywhere, but it is rapidly
becoming the norm. For us it was a question of whether to pick the Emergency Site Management System or the
Incident Command System. The fire community has pretty well gone towards the Incident Command System, so that
triggered our recommendation to adopt that throughout the province. Now we are providing the training for people to
be fully aware of what that means.
The Chairman: What about continuity of governments? Does your organization undertake audits to determine the
capacity of different departments to continue to function in the event of an emergency, and do you make the results
Mr. Egener: We have just reinforced our continuity-of-government team which helps all with their continuity-of-
government plans and business continuity plans, and those plans are tested. The results are reported within the
government, but whether they are reported to the public, I cannot say.
Mr. Blair: It may be reported in individual ministry reports. We have been doing business continuity across
government for over two years now.
The Chairman: Are your reports public?
Mr. Blair: No.
The Chairman: Their reports are a lot less interesting to us than what an independent body has to say.
Mr. Egener: It is interesting that you mention that, because that is one of the roles we saw for the institute, to make
some of that information available, to assess it, to do post-incident evaluation. We do post-incident evaluation now,
but we do it for ourselves — a dishonest system. We see the institute doing that evaluation and making the lessons
learned very public.
The Chairman: At the federal level, the responsibility rests with the deputy of each department, which generally
means that the departments get terrific reviews, and we think that badly needs to be addressed.
Mr. Egener: Agreed.
Senator Day: Thank you very much for the background information that you provided to us. It is very helpful.
Was the November 2005 report by the Alberta Environmental Protection Commission adopted by the government
as its policy?
Mr. Egener: Yes. All of the recommendations were adopted, and our minister's mandate is to accelerate their
implementation. That is what he told me to do.
Senator Day: Is Emergency Management Alberta the agency that was recommended by the commission? Will it
report directly to the premier's office and Executive Council?
Mr. Egener: It does now through the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I report directly to the minister, who is a
member of Executive Council.
Senator Day: The commission recommended reporting not through a minister.
Mr. Egener: No, it did not say that. The commission's report is a report to Executive Council, and they all report
through a minister. There is a minister responsible for this function.
Senator Day: Then you report through a minister. All right.
The examination by Dr. Newell and his group was very precise. We have not seen other recent studies of its kind in
other provinces. It is very helpful to look at what has been done and what can be done and where you should be going.
The institute that was recommended is quite interesting. That is policy as well, is it, and you are proceeding? They got
their $1 million to do the study?
Mr. Egener: No, it is in train now. The business case for the institute has been developed. It is being approved as we
speak, and I have just put into our budget a request for the start-up funding for the institute.
Senator Day: Does it make sense to do something like that province by province? Could that be shared amongst a
number of provinces?
Mr. Egener: We are hoping that it can be shared. The federal government should be interested in this initiative. I do
not care which university houses the institute or where it is based, but I am hoping that Alberta will be a major
participant. I will certainly be talking to my colleagues in the federal government. Industry has already stepped
forward and said that they are very interested. A number of institutions, including Canadian National Railway, which
caused the Wabamun incident, have already indicated that they are interested in having some research done.
Senator Day: Senator Atkins pointed out that yesterday we heard from a number of emergency measures people and
responders in Vancouver, and they indicated that it is very costly to send their people all the way to Ottawa for
Mr. Egener: Especially for entry-level courses. It is an old, old story about how expensive it is to send people to
Ottawa for very basic courses. Could we not put some of the entry-level training on the ground closer to where the need
Senator Day: Could some of that training be done by the institute?
Mr. Egener: No. I think the institute is intended to be more of a research organization. For example, it would be a
great one to do a training-gap analysis for Alberta on the whole subject of emergency management. That kind of
research would be very good.
I think there needs to be more capacity closer to where there is a need for training. We have to address that. We are
putting more capacity in place. B.C. has a lot of capacity. There is not very much in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and
there is very little in the territories and in the West.
Senator Day: The commission recommended providing response support for small and isolated communities, which
is a subject that has not been focused on in the past. How are you moving along on that recommendation?
Mr. Egener: We have accepted that. We created a group within Emergency Management Alberta that can be
dispatched to a smaller, isolated community facing an emergency, to reinforce them right in their command post. That
is in place now and ready to go, although we have not exercised it yet.
Senator Day: You can envisage how smaller communities that might not have first-responder facilities could be
impacted by something upriver or upstream, like the Wabamun rail disaster, if chemicals got into the river. That is the
kind of situation I assume is being referred to in this particular suggestion.
Mr. Egener: We are reinforcing their ability to operate their command facilities and command post, but certainly
additional resources would be helpful. The environment department has just completely overhauled its whole
emergency protocols and developed a new team, and they go to the site whenever an event happens that has a large
environmental component. Similarly, it is in our mandate to make sure that the other departments, like health and
energy, have upgraded their emergency response capacity so that we have got more resources on the ground.
Senator Day: As is indicated in the commission's report, it is important to be able to determine what the risks are
when you are doing a risk assessment. For example, in the case of a warehouse fire, the first responders there would be
the fire department and maybe some police. Alberta Environment has a team, but it might be quite remote from this
particular incident. What kind of training is there to help first responders understand what the risks are such as
chemicals in the building?
Mr. Egener: I think that question can probably be better answered by the municipal folks who will appear before
you after we are finished. Information about any storage of hazardous materials is required by law to be reported to
the fire department, so they should have that information.
I think that old difficulty has been mostly solved. The kind of surprises you would get are tire fires, for example.
Nobody would have thought about the chemicals that are produced when tires burn. There are always surprises, but
the difficulties of storage in warehouses and what is in rail cars and trucks are pretty well solved.
Senator Day: They point out here that when a tornado hits an industrial area, it is important to look at all the
secondary things that take place in order to determine the risks.
Mr. Egener: Yes, sir. That is a nightmare scenario. It actually happened here in Edmonton on July 31, 1987. A
tornado went right up the industrial area, and hazardous material was scattered everywhere. It required quite an
innovative response. Fortunately, there are lots of trained hazardous material specialists, and they were put into teams.
They went through the whole swath and marked all the unknown chemical containers. Any spills that could get into
the water systems were marked and dealt with right away. It was an excellent response.
Senator Day: I got the impression from your testimony earlier that most of the protocols have been worked out, but
this report of just a year ago says that one of the most important areas is working out jurisdictional agreements. It also
refers to the importance of including the First Nations in any of these protocols. Obviously the commission found that
there is something wanting here yet.
Mr. Egener: The jurisdiction on federal rights-of-way, for example, is always a problem, for example on railway
property. We really do need to work hard on that. The are problems with First Nations' levels of response and of
ability, and including them in emergency management protocols is an ever-present challenge.
Senator Day: Are you still working on it?
Mr. Egener: You will never solve those problems. Hopefully you will improve them to a point where there is a
workable situation, but it is something you have to work at all the time.
Two First Nations members of our field staff work entirely with the First Nations communities, but the capacity is
not there. You mentioned the reinforcement items earlier; we envisage having the capacity to reinforce the First
Nations communities when they have to deal with an emergency.
Senator Day: That was quite helpful.
Senator St. Germain: Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing before us this morning. Mr. Egener, you went into the
military the same time I did, in 1956.
The jurisdictional aspect keeps rearing its head. I have been at both ends of the spectrum. I spent time as a police
officer, so I am quite cognizant of being a first responder. Often the people who are asked first to respond are right at
the bottom of the totem pole in terms of being able to source the necessary training and funding required.
Where do you see the country now with respect to jurisdictional differences at the government level? Do you think
that it is working its way to a better level, or do you think the municipalities are still way far away? I think perhaps
Alberta has a better working relationship with municipalities than do some other jurisdictions across the country. You
bring a vast amount of experience to the table, so I am asking for your personal opinion on progress being made at that
Mr. Egener: Senator, jurisdictional issues are always there and we will never get rid of them. We will never be able to
legislate them out of existence. The only way to work through them is by frequent and regular exercising. That is the
best solution to jurisdictional problems.
Issues with the railways and with First Nations are very difficult to deal with. We have just made a significant
advancement in the railway jurisdiction issue: Transport Canada has agreed that provincial dangerous goods
inspectors will be authorized to enter railway property. That is a big step. I have seen dreadful things happening,
including people threatening to throw federal inspectors in jail because they will not let them on.
You can have some nasty issues. The best solution is to work through them using a good exercise regime so that
people know what to expect. However, the stovepipes are always there. You will find them in health issues, in
transportation issues, in port issues, in fisheries issues. Unless people are familiar with how disasters will be managed
and trust that the system will work, they will do what their own legislation dictates, and quite often that is
Senator Banks: The commission's report says that the Incident Command System provides in itself a process to
answer those questions. Are you saying that there are some pockets along the side that sometimes are not answered in
Mr. Egener: Absolutely. Try dealing with medical officers of health on an evacuation issue. Unless they understand
what is going on, it will be difficult.
The best way is frequent and regular exercising so that people who will be involved understand what everybody is
doing and are sympathetic to everyone's jurisdictional problems.
Senator St. Germain: I saw recently that the number of accidents or incidents with the railway, I think CN, seems to
be increasing. They just dropped an engine off a cliff in British Columbia. I would think that that has to be a concern,
especially in this province where they move so much hazardous material. Has the high number of incidences in the
railway triggered any particular thought process at your level?
Mr. Egener: I have a great deal of respect for the Transportation Safety Board, which investigates all those accidents
and which is demanding higher and higher levels of safety from the railroad. That process is very good.
The issue really is that the traffic is increasing too. While traffic is increasing, the frequency rate of incidents is
decreasing, but they tend to balance each other off.
It is a great concern. Some of our highest risks are related to rail transportation systems in this province, and we are
very concerned. The trains go right through the centre of Edmonton and right through the centre of Calgary. They
used to go right through the centre of Red Deer, but they have been moved off a bit to one side now.
The railways are trying hard, but there are so many jurisdictions with which they have to work. They work with the
provinces, and every community the railways go through wants to exercise with them. We need to work that one down
Of course, the air crash is always a big scenario for a major centre too. I am thinking of aircraft accidents on
approaches into Edmonton or Calgary or one of the major centres. Those authorities are very used to working
Senator Moore: Going back to the relationships among the levels of government, we were told that B.C. has an
agreement, a two-way arrangement, with the State of Washington. I am wondering if such an agreement exists between
Alberta and the butting U.S. states, given that there are highways, waterways and pipelines that extend across the
border. If so, what is the nature of those agreements? Is there sharing of information? Do you do common exercises?
Mr. Egener: I will ask Mr. Blair to give you more detail, but yes, those agreements are in place, and yes, they are
very comfortable, and yes, they are exercised.
Senator Moore: With whom do you have agreements?
Mr. Egener: Of course, we work with our neighbouring provinces regularly. We have agreements with Montana,
Utah and Idaho, but mostly Montana.
Mr. Blair: We have been working very closely with the State of Montana, with which we have a memorandum of
understanding, more on the crisis management side of the house, terrorism, working with their state personnel and
with FEMA representatives.
We are aware of what BC has done with Washington. The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region has an emergency
management compact, which is based upon the Emergency Management Assistance Compact in the United States.
There is a draft memorandum of understanding between the province and the territory regarding how we will assist
each other in the middle of an emergency. It is based on the simple principle ``You call, we provide, you pay.'' That
particular agreement is still on the books with the Canadian Council of Emergency Management Organizations, which
includes all the provinces and territories.
The East Coast has the International Emergency Management Assistance Group, which is also based on the U.S.'s
Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
The momentum is starting to build. There are some good initiatives between the provinces and territories and across
the border to improve emergency management communication and assistance.
Senator Moore: When was the MOU with Montana entered into?
Mr. Blair: I would have to verify that for you.
Senator Moore: Is it recent or old?
Mr. Egener: It is very old. I can remember renewing it in 1983 or 1984, and it had already been around for quite a
long time. It is a comfortable arrangement. There were usually meetings every year or two between FEMA, the state
people, ourselves, and the Canadian federal people.
Senator Moore: When would you meet with your American counterparts?
Mr. Egener: We have not met since I was called back into this job, but Mr. Blair might know when they last met
Senator Moore: Do they meet annually?
Mr. Blair: It is more frequent than that, and it also involves the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP. It
is quite a joint collaboration. We maintain a regular e-mail dialogue. I cannot recall the exact date of the last get-
together, but they were happening on a quarterly basis.
Senator Banks: It was more frequent than annually?
Mr. Blair: More frequent than annually, yes.
Mr. Egener: Now there is also the issue of the border security.
Senator Moore: Aside from the function of actually meeting, do you get good information? Is it really worth your
while? Is there a real effort by your American counterparts to come to those meetings with a view to assisting,
improving, enhancing the whole situation for citizens on both sides? Is there any withholding, or do you feel a good
Mr. Blair: I think it is an excellent cooperation. One of the biggest initiatives was looking at cross-border
communications interoperability, which was very high on the State of Montana's agenda. Information sharing is pretty
good as well. I cannot give you specifics on the last exercise that was conducted, but there have been cross-border
Mr. Egener: We had a real live exercise on the BSE business, mad cow disease. That was very much an Alberta and
Montana issue for a while, and there was lots of practical remembrance there.
Senator Banks: Talking specifically about heavy urban search and rescue, HUSAR, and chemical, biological,
radiological, nuclear and explosive, CBRNE, is it Alberta's view, and if you cannot answer for Alberta then is it your
view, that the long-term sustainability part of both of those responses is principally a federal responsibility?
Mr. Egener: Yes, senator, and it is fairly urgent to get it sorted out.
The Chairman: Mr. Egener, Mr. Blair, on behalf of the committee, I would like to thank you both very much. The
work you are doing here is extraordinarily important. It is difficult to persuade politicians to fund these exercises. It is
difficult to spend the penny to save the pound, and yet we all know as we look at these issues that we can absolutely
save lives and save dollars if we make these investments and make these plans now.
The committee is continually impressed when we come to Alberta and see the work you are doing and the leadership
you provide. I want to congratulate you and encourage you to keep on leading the country with this sort of work, and
thank you for being of so much assistance to us in this process. We appreciate your coming before us today and we
look forward to our next meeting.
Honourable senators, we now have before us representatives from the municipal government of the City of
Edmonton. The delegation is led by His Worship Mayor Stephen Mandel, and he will be the principal presenter.
Mayor Mandel has served as Mayor of Edmonton since October 2004. He is an accomplished businessman and
brings 30 years of business and community experience to city hall. He has been extensively involved in business
development, residential and commercial real estate development, construction, and operations of hotels and sports
The mayor is accompanied by Mr. Steve Rapanos, Chief, Emergency Medical Services; Mr. John Lamb, Deputy
Chief, Fire Rescue; Mr. Bob Black, Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness; and Inspector Darren Eastcott from
the Edmonton Police Service.
We are delighted to have you all here. Welcome.
His Worship Mayor Stephen Mandel, City of Edmonton: Honourable senators, welcome to Alberta's capital city, and
thank you for inviting the City of Edmonton to provide an overview of our emergency management system. We are
pleased to have an opportunity to outline the current state of our system, to identify areas where we believe we are
leaders, as well as the areas where more work and collaboration must take place as we strive to maximize our
Together, the people here with me today make up our city's leadership corps in the area of first response. They are
able to answer whatever specific questions you have about Edmonton's challenges, but first I would like to paint some
of the broad strokes to give you an overall picture that might help frame the discussion that follows.
Let me begin by saying Edmonton has developed one of the best municipal emergency preparedness programs in
Canada. We have established a functional emergency operations centre and trained over 350 city staff to work in it. We
are in the process of establishing a comprehensive community emergency preparedness program in conjunction with
our corporate sponsor, ATCO Gas. We regularly conduct evaluation exercises and drills. We are engaged in business
continuity and pandemic planning.
On the occasions when our Municipal Emergency Plan has been used, it has been effective. Truly, Edmonton has a
lot to be proud of in its emergency preparedness planning and response, and I think we can hold up our practices and
achievements as examples other cities might wish to emulate.
However, Edmonton's challenges in emergency preparedness, and in other areas, revolve around the whole question
of partnerships — partnerships between all three orders of government and between neighbouring municipalities. On
this score, we need to be doing much better, and that is where we really need to focus our attention.
At the regional level, Edmonton is a core member of the Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Partnership, C-
REPP, comprised of several municipalities and other organizations in the Edmonton region. This group has attempted
to build a stronger regional emergency preparedness partnership. With the provision of approximately $280,000 of
provincial funding, C-REPP hired a full-time administrator and continues to look at ways to improve regional disaster
However, C-REPP has fallen considerably short in achieving its operational objectives. Although we continue to
meet periodically, we have not achieved anything on an operational level. One of the biggest barriers that our regional
emergency preparedness partnership faces is the lack of regional governance body that could direct C-REPP and
ensure more efficient and effective regional emergency preparedness and response.
If you have been keeping up with Alberta politics, you will note that the challenges we face in regional preparedness
are part of a larger regional problem. The City of Edmonton has advocated for regional planning, regional sharing of
the costs and benefits of growth, and regional governance. We believe we need to encourage more effective cooperation
with neighbouring municipalities in a number of areas, including emergency preparedness. If a more regional approach
has the potential to better ensure the safety and security of the people of this region, we need to consider it. Through an
increased willingness to work together as a region, and the strong hand of the province to help bring us together, we
could make inroads in this area.
Another area I would like to raise is our city's collaboration with Emergency Management Alberta. There are some
strong foundations here we can build on. Alberta has the best emergency public warning system in Canada, which is a
source of pride and great comfort to us working in this area. Alberta has also been very effective in providing disaster
financial assistance after an event, another source of strength and pride.
Following the Wabamun oil spill, the province commissioned an environmental protection review to review its
emergency response structure, processes and policies. We have supported the recommendations of this review and are
encouraged by reports that these recommendations are being implemented, albeit slowly.
However, the shortcomings in our relationship are sizable. They are largely based on the fact that Edmonton has
not been brought in as an equal partner in emergency management. Given that roughly 90 per cent of emergencies are
responded to at the municipal level, it is absolutely vital that cities sit at the table on this issue. This needs to change if
we are to better ensure the safety and security of the people of this region and this province.
At the federal level, there appears to be a degree of understanding of the importance of dealing directly with major
municipalities in the area of emergency preparedness. For example, Bob Black, our Director of Emergency
Preparedness, sits as the co-chair of a national committee dealing with public safety and security in the area of
computer mapping. He is not sitting as a representative of Edmonton, but was invited to participate because of his
professional perspective, with the understanding that he can provide expert municipal input to the program
development and execution.
This is a positive example, but, unfortunately, by and large, the direct federal-municipal link has not been supported
by the provinces, which means that most collaboration ends up being informal.
I would submit that there are also major problems with the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive,
CBRNE, program. Our subject matter experts are eager to provide more detailed information on the shortcomings of
the program. I invite you to take up this point with them in the question and answer session. I would like to raise the
fact that municipalities are facing serious equipment maintenance and overall deployability issues in the CBRNE
program, which are major impediments to success. Of equal significance, there is a lack of comprehensive, affordable
training available to city staff within this federal program — training we feel is necessary to deliver on expectations.
That brings us to another key partnership issue: the need for a national strategy framework regarding training and
response. This is a vital point, and municipalities need to be front and centre in helping establish this national strategy.
Alongside the need to establish stronger partnerships between and among governments and emergency responders is
the need for increased financial support. Simply put, cities need to be given the tools to help deliver the services that
citizens expect. The case has been made in countless forums for more support from other orders of government for
municipal emergency preparedness.
The City of Edmonton has been part of these ongoing advocacy efforts. In fact, we spoke out for greater
involvement from the federal and provincial governments when we last presented to this Senate committee back in
2003. Unfortunately, we feel little progress has been made on this front. As in years past, the City of Edmonton today
receives almost no federal or provincial funds for emergency preparedness, and this puts us in a tough spot on a
number of fronts.
To take just one example, the lack of provincial funding makes it difficult to consider moving forward with needed
upgrades at our emergency operations centre. The issue of an enhanced emergency operations centre is vital for a
number of reasons. The current emergency operations centre, while marginally effective, is too small and is not ideally
located to properly perform its function. As well, given the lack of any regional command facility, it is likely that the
City of Edmonton's emergency operations centre would have to take on that function in a regional emergency. The
current facility has very little capacity to expand to take on that role. An investment from the province in a new
emergency operations centre would help us better protect all the people of the Edmonton Capital Region.
When it comes to federal funding, it is encouraging to know that the Government of Canada is allocating huge
amounts of money for emergency preparedness. To me, it is a sign that they are taking emergency preparedness very
seriously. However, very little of this money ever finds its way to the municipal level. For example, of the $1 billion
announced for pandemic preparation, none has been earmarked for municipalities, which again highlights the lack of
systemic engagement with cities and the enormous role they play in this issue.
Funding, when it does flow from the federal government to cities, tends not to be sustained funding. For example,
while we appreciated the funding received from Transport Canada for transit security, it was just a one-time
investment, and it was unrelated to larger emergency preparedness programs.
It is also quite a challenge to gain access to the funds that are available. The Joint Emergency Preparedness Program
grants are a case in point. The amounts available are small, and the application process is cumbersome and time
consuming. We would like to see some of those barriers removed.
I have covered a lot of ground in a few short minutes. As you have heard, there are a number of areas where we feel
improvement must be made. We would benefit from progress in any of these areas, but really, at the end of the day, it is
not just about fixing a hole, not about doing a bit here and a bit there.
What the City of Edmonton would truly like to see is an overall shift in approach in how other governments deal
with emergency preparedness. Sustained and predictable funding for our entire emergency preparedness system is an
absolute must, and this has to flow from the province and the federal government. Without this kind of funding
commitment, municipalities are set up to fall short of the expectations of our citizens. Today Edmonton has a strong
emergency preparedness system, but sadly it is despite the lack of coordinated, well-planned investment by other orders
More important, the shift in approach we are looking for also means integrating cities as full partners in policy
formation. When new programs and practices are being developed, we need to be at the table. Municipal involvement
is a necessary element in establishing commonly accepted policies and standard operating guidelines for national,
provincial and municipal response to events.
Truly, without the input of cities, which bear so much of the load, which have so much of the first-hand experience,
it is tough to be sure we are addressing the real ground-floor challenges from coast to coast. Cities like Edmonton have
the expertise and willingness to build a better emergency preparedness system. In short, we ask that we be given an
opportunity to better contribute and that other orders of government give us the tools to succeed.
The Chairman: Your Worship, your presentation is right to the point and you have gone to the very crux of the
concern that this committee has had now for three years. We are grateful to you for refocusing it so well for us.
Senator Banks: We are used to hearing about the problems of funding, jurisdiction and interoperability between the
municipal, provincial and federal orders of government. We are less used to hearing from a municipality such as
Edmonton that is not a unitary municipality. How many municipalities does Greater Edmonton, if I can put it that
Mr. Mandel: There are 23 of us in total.
Senator Banks: Before I get to the main question, could you or your colleagues tell us whether the fact that there are
23 contiguous municipalities itself constitutes a fourth problem with respect to jurisdiction, funding, interoperability
and the like?
Mr. Mandel: I would think that if an emergency happened the entire region would come together and work together,
because that is the nature of people when challenges happen.
Senator Banks: Are you relying on good will?
Mr. Mandel: My point is that we need to have in place systems that will deal with that in advance of those events
happening. The region does not lend itself currently to a process of setting up systems. There are levels of cooperation,
which I will ask Mr. Black to speak to, but the challenge is that many of our municipalities are doing their own thing.
As a result, there is not an integrated, concerted effort to ensure that things are taken care of.
Look at the risk potential. We have some very big refineries and a lot of manufacturing here. If something were to
happen in those areas, it would take a concerted effort by everyone to respond, and so there should be plans set up for
everyone to work together.
Bob Black, Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness, City of Edmonton: Four years ago when we testified before
this committee, we had a representative from the Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Partnership talk about our
ambitious plan that we were trying to implement. We had some very large programs that we wanted put in place which
required very large funding. I do not recall whether at that time we had been told that we would not get the funding,
but long story short, we did not get the provincial and federal funding that we had asked for to implement a strong
regional emergency preparedness response.
In the intervening three years we have been working as a team to try to come up with some operational fixes.
Although we meet regularly, recently we have had to take a pause in our planning and suspend our operations to revisit
completely what is achievable at the regional level. There was no point adding grandiose expectations when we did not
have the resources to back them up, so we are now stopped. We will re-evaluate and figure out what in the end is
possible. We are talking to each other. We are working as best we can, but it is not as effective as any of us would like.
Senator St. Germain: Do you have a regional district like the Greater Vancouver Regional District?
Mr. Mandel: No, we do not. We are 23 separate municipalities and counties, loosely linked.
Senator St. Germain: That is the best question I have had. Quit while you are ahead.
Senator Banks: That was why I asked the mayor to talk about the structure of the region. It is not like Metropolitan
Toronto used to be, and there has not been a forced consolidation here. The census metropolitan area of Edmonton is
literally 23 separate municipalities, each of which is contiguous with at least one of the others. A fourth level of
problem exists here, I would think, that is unique in Canada.
Mr. Mandel: According to our research, there is no city in Canada of comparable size that has not had some kind of
regionalization like the Greater Vancouver Regional District or Toronto. We are a bit of a rarity in the country.
Senator Banks: The province conducted a study and concluded that the province ought not to force a regional form
of government onto these 23 municipalities. Is that correct?
Mr. Mandel: Well, I will not speak to what the province has decided. There are new things afoot in the province, and
we will see what happens. I do not believe they will force anybody to amalgamate, but forcing us to cooperate might be
just as good a step.
Senator Banks: Regarding that good will and cooperation, if an event happened in one of those municipalities that
required the participation of emergency response people from the other municipalities, would there be the capacity for
first responders to have instant interoperable communications among themselves?
Mr. Mandel: I will let our professionals answer that.
Steve Rapanos, Chief, Emergency Medical Services, City of Edmonton: In some cases we work from a mutual aid
channel that we have. We have had a number of major emergencies in this region, and we get excellent cooperation at
the operations level for the initial response.
The greater question the mayor raised has to do with high risk areas such as the refineries. We are building a much
more sophisticated level of response and planning; that is our current challenge. For day-to-day operations and major
emergencies that occur in the region, I think the cooperation between the operating groups is excellent. It is the bigger
question that is the issue.
Senator Banks: Thinking of communications specifically, not cooperation, can the Strathcona County fire
department communicate with and receive communications from the City of Edmonton fire department? The refineries
are not in Edmonton; they are in Strathcona.
John Lamb, Deputy Chief, Fire Rescue, City of Edmonton: The short answer is yes, the technology is there. However,
we would rely on the Incident Command System in a mutual command procedure where we have our commands face
to face, and then we would have our respective radio channels to each of our resources.
We have taken on a number of training courses to be able to run with that kind of command structure, and we have
just completed one recently. I will ask Mr. Eastcott to address that.
Darren Eastcott, Inspector, Edmonton Police Service, City of Edmonton: I concur with that. Inside the scope of the
City of Edmonton we have done some training with our partners, the emergency medical services and fire departments.
Our challenges would be outside that scope, where we need to do that training also with the surrounding regional
Senator Banks: Do all of the 23 municipalities use the Incident Command System?
Mr. Black: To the best of my knowledge, we all use it to one degree or another, as do most of the industrial partners
we deal with. It is a common system in this region.
Senator Banks: Mayor, you talked about the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, JEPP. As we travel across the
country, we have heard different views about the success of that program as it applies specifically to municipalities;
some people are pretty happy with it while others are not. Having to do with certain kinds of responses, CBRNE in
particular, I suspect that the first responders might have a view about JEPP, and we would be interested in knowing
what the impediments are, aside from the shortness of money. We know there is not enough money, and however much
money there was, it would not be enough. Do your first response people have access to the programs that exist in
JEPP, and if not, what are the impediments?
Mr. Black: We have accessed JEPP over the last three years. You are quite correct; the amount of money available is
very small, and they are grants, one-time inputs of money to the system. It is a cumbersome process.
Unfortunately, the federal fiscal year is out of sync with Alberta's fiscal year, which makes getting the paperwork
done a challenge, but we can deal with that. We have used JEPP to try to overcome some shortfalls in maintenance of
our CBRNE equipment, and we have had mixed success. In some cases we have been able to access JEPP funds, and
we have been able to upgrade and replace some of our equipment. Bear in mind that it is a 50/50 split, so we pick up
half the cost. In other cases we have been refused because the equipment we wanted to replace did not meet the criteria
set out by JEPP.
For a one-time big equipment purchase for which you want to get 50 per cent funding from the federal government,
JEPP has some real advantages, but as an ongoing program, it has some limitations.
Senator Banks: JEPP is not intended ever to be an ongoing program. JEPP is to assist in the capital purchase of
specific equipment, is it not?
Mr. Black: That is correct.
Senator Banks: Does that not answer the question?
Mr. Black: It is the only access we have to federal funding, and we would take advantage of it in that manner.
Senator Banks: Do you think, mayor, that the federal government ought to be involved in ongoing operational
funding of first responders at the municipal level?
Mr. Mandel: Well, senator, I am trying to answer that in a fair and equitable way. I would guess that — I am trying
to say this in a nice way — you guys get the bulk of the money.
Senator Banks: Do not say it a nice way.
Mr. Mandel: Municipalities and their citizens send the bulk of our money to Ottawa, and we then have a small
amount to deal with the challenges we face. We send out a huge amount of money, and what you tend to give us back is
grant programs like JEPP that are used just for a specific purpose. Then we end up doing something for that purpose,
even if we do not need it, because we think we can probably fit something into that category. Thus we have a few quick
programs that we might not need but we use because that is what you have created; so we take half of our money and
half of your money, and it might not be the best use of those funds.
I think that the federal government has a responsibility to fund municipalities in a way that is just like any other
citizen in the country would fund federal responsibility. Yes, there needs to be a change.
Senator Meighen: Your Worship, I just have to get this one clear. If you were the king of the country and could
reorder federal-municipal relations, would it not be better to allow the municipalities to raise enough money to
discharge their responsibilities rather than continuing with a grant program that does not always satisfy their needs?
Mr. Mandel: I absolutely agree with you.
Senator Meighen: Is that the direction we should go?
Mr. Mandel: Absolutely. Municipalities should have the capacity to raise those funds. I think it is not reasonable to
expect it to come within the elasticity of property taxes; nor would it be reasonable to say to Edmontonians or
Torontonians or Haligonians or Vancouverites, ``expect taxes to increase.''
Senator Moore: As a former deputy mayor, I am watching you.
Mr. Mandel: I think there is enough taxation; there just needs to be a bit of a redistribution. We would be very
pleased to be responsible enough to have the funds that you have to allocate in a way that would be effective for our
Senator Banks: The federal government, or at least some aspects of it, is of the view that a substantial amount of
money has been made available by the federal government to cities by the foregoing of GST, for example, which put
hundreds of millions of dollars into municipal coffers.
Mr. Mandel: I do not want to get into the debate as to whether or not that was enough. We appreciate everything
the federal government does, has done and will continue to do. However, the question was about ongoing funding, and
the answer is yes. There are a variety of ways to do that. We could sit down, senator, and I could give you many of the
views I have.
Senator Meighen: I just wanted a general view. We all agree there is never enough money for us as individuals or as
municipalities or whatever.
Mr. Mandel: Or as the federal government either.
Senator Meighen: In the meantime, we have to live with the system we have.
Mr. Mandel: Absolutely.
Senator Meighen: This will be a somewhat provocative question. I think some federal money falls off the table
because your fiscal year ends are different. Why would you not change your fiscal year end to coincide with the federal
fiscal year end? Clearly the federal government cannot change its fiscal year end to coincide with the differing fiscal
year ends of the municipalities across the country.
Mr. Mandel: That is a very good suggestion, and we would be more than willing to look at that. I think we need that
for the provincial government as well. I am not sure why the City of Edmonton's fiscal year end is different from that
of the province or the federal government. It does not make sense to me, and we have talked about it a great deal, but it
is a bureaucratic issue to try to change.
Senator Moore: What is your year end?
Mr. Mandel: December 31. I think our province's year end is the end of March. What is it for the federal
Senator Moore: The end of March.
Mr. Mandel: It is the same as the province. I will take back an undertaking to look to change.
Senator Meighen: I am sure my suggestions will be terribly influential.
Mr. Mandel: No, no, no, senator. We have talked a great deal about it already. I am not sure why it is the way it is;
when I became mayor, that is the way it was, but we should change it.
Senator Meighen: I am a native of Quebec, and I thought Quebec politics were complicated, but I am beginning to
realize that Alberta politics are equally complicated.
Mr. Mandel: Politics are complicated.
Senator Meighen: Is the bottom line that unless the province acts to bring about an amalgamation of the
municipalities in the greater Edmonton area, similar to Vancouver, it will not happen?
Mr. Mandel: I think that the province will have to take steps to ensure that the kind of cooperation necessary in our
region happens. Some have suggested that a form of cooperation through regionalization is the way to go, somewhat
like the Greater Vancouver Regional District, which is not an amalgamation. I hope that we as a region can get
together to find solutions for problems, but my guess is that the province will need to send a very strong message and/
Senator Meighen: Am I hearing that, absent that message, it is difficult to conclude comprehensive agreements in the
area of emergency planning with 23 municipalities?
Mr. Mandel: The challenge is not that everybody does not want to cooperate, but that each person has a different
vision of what the result should be or should not be.
I think it is important that emergency preparedness be part of an overall package. Then you would create a
committee that would be in charge of emergency preparedness for the region, and they would develop a plan that
would work for everybody. That would be a very positive and important step. We are all in this together, and if there is
a challenge, we should work together.
Up to now there has been a desire to work together on the administrative side, but there have been gaps on the
Senator Meighen: You said on page 4 of your presentation that Edmonton has not been brought in as an equal
partner in emergency management. During the break, I said something to the effect that I thought Alberta was
probably the most advanced province in emergency planning, with the possible exception of British Columbia, but that
is more a Vancouver issue. I still feel that, but it seems that while it may be true at the top level, there are little bumps
and difficulties as you move down to a local level. Why is it that Edmonton, and I suppose Calgary as well, would not
be brought in as an equal?
Mr. Mandel: There is always a bit of trepidation as to how municipalities fit into the paradigm of politics and what
role the province plays. I will give you an example, although I am not sure how fair it is. The province called us up one
day and said, ``The military is coming back from Afghanistan; can you make sure that we have enough people out
there.'' That was not emergency preparedness; they just did not have the people to do it, so we made arrangements for
We are proud to do it, but my point is that there is a gap in the relationship between the two. I will let Mr. Black talk
about that a bit more. He is the guy in charge of our department. I am just giving you the political view.
Mr. Black: Senators, one of the challenges is that the province, quite rightfully, tries to deal with municipalities in an
equitable manner across the province. There are about 350 various municipal orders of government in the province.
The province tries to deal with all of them on an equal basis, at the same time recognizing that cities like Edmonton
and Calgary are huge. Edmonton has a larger population than some provinces do. It has been a challenge for the
province to try to square that circle.
I find it very reassuring that the environmental commission report acknowledges the fact that moving forward in
their emergency program they have to push to work more closely with municipalities. I am hoping and I am confident
that as they go through this restructuring and the engineering they will see the role that big cities play and see the need
to cooperate with us more closely.
Senator Meighen: Is it an issue of dispute that there is a far greater likelihood of a significant disaster occurring in
Edmonton or Calgary than in another region? I realize there are pipelines facilities elsewhere, and there is Fort
McMurray, but are we really dealing with an elephant and a mouse? Or two elephants?
Mr. Black: I would not necessarily simplify it that much. Geographically, the bulk of Alberta is rural, and
Emergency Management Alberta and the province focus on some of the rural areas because they are so big and do not
have the resources that we have. The bulk of the population is located in several large municipalities. It is a challenge
for the province to balance those needs.
What we are saying is that Edmonton is different than small-town Alberta. We have a well-defined emergency
program in the city, and we have professional emergency management. We can bring resources and professional
knowledge to the table, and we would like to be included.
The Chairman: On that subject, one of the most frustrating things with which this committee has had to deal is the
question of relationship or jurisdiction among the orders of government. Some of you may be familiar with the report
we put out three years ago. We recognize of course that there are constitutional responsibilities, but those do not, in
our view, preclude the capability of the different orders to sit down and talk through these issues.
We just had witnesses from the province who said they thought that was a terrific idea. However, we do not see it
happening. We continue to talk to municipalities, and that is where the rubber hits the road. First responders are in the
municipalities, and they find themselves not communicating in the way they would like about the problems they have.
What sort of impetus can you bring to this? What sort of push can you make, Your Worship, to refocus this issue so
that it becomes a more lively topic of discussion? When we talk about it federally, the government regularly says, ``The
Constitution is there, and we are stuck talking to the provinces.'' We respond, ``We all know the Constitution is there,
but that does not stop you from buying a cup of coffee and sitting down around a table.''
Our sense is that a great many issues could be addressed if there were even just a more informal way of addressing
problems with a common approach.
Mr. Mandel: I think you are absolutely right. There is no question that sitting across a table, or around a coffee pot,
you can solve more problems than you will in a formal environment.
I can see that our province is incredibly responsive. In my two years as mayor I can count no more than one or two
times, perhaps not even that many, that they did not respond to the needs of the City of Edmonton.
If we could figure out where the federal government might be in this, I think our provincial government could work
closely to resolve some of the challenges. Maybe major municipalities like Edmonton and Calgary could set up a
different venue for discussions than some of the rural areas. I find that the Government of Alberta is very cooperative
and will do that.
The Chairman: My comment was not intended as criticism of the Province of Alberta. It was more a plea that there
be some push from both municipalities and provinces back to the federal government to say, ``We would like to sit
down in this sort of forum.'' When we sit down with the minister responsible and have him appear before us, we
essentially have the Constitution read back to us, and we are fed up with that. The political reality should overcome
Mr. Mandel: Senator, I absolutely agree with you, but unfortunately, political reality is sometimes a result of
The Chairman: Politics?
Mr. Mandel: I know it is hard to believe. We would like to see a change, but I cannot speak for the federal
government. Municipal governments always want to try to solve problems because we are so close to the people; we
have no choice.
The Chairman: The panel preceding you gave us the impression that they are open to this, and I am suggesting that
Alberta lead the way again by giving the federal government a nudge that this is a better way to go.
Mr. Mandel: We will definitely take up the challenge and meet with our provincial counterparts and many of their
MPs who are very cooperative with us and see if we can move something forward.
Emergency preparedness is a big issue covering many areas, from the most horrific events to other, regional events.
It is important that we get together. Hopefully this committee will raise the profile of this issue and push, along with
the minister, to say, ``Look, you have got to work together to solve this.'' Hopefully we can move forward.
Senator Moore: I want to deal with the comments you made and the response you got. Is there a reason that such
sitting at the table is not taking place? Is it because the province is saying they do not want you there, or is it the federal
government saying that, or are they using the fact that municipalities are creatures of the province to say that you
cannot be there?
Mr. Mandel: I do not want to get into discussions about that. From our point of view, we have much more ongoing
relationship with the province, just because of the nature. Ottawa is a fair distance away, so it is a little more difficult
for us to sit down at the table all the time on specific issues with the ministers. It is much easier to just call up here and
go visit people. In Ottawa it is different.
Senator Moore: Yes.
Mr. Mandel: I am not sure whether it is always part and parcel that under the Constitution there are responsibilities
and a clear delineation of authority, and unfortunately, when it comes to authority, though we do not like to say it, we
do not rank as high as the other guys.
Senator Moore: We are talking about emergency measures here and about saving lives.
Mr. Mandel: Saving lives. Absolutely.
Senator Moore: We are talking about one taxpayer funding all the levels who deserves and merits that protection.
Mr. Mandel: Senator, you are absolutely correct. Emergency preparedness is primarily delivered at the municipal
level, and an awful lot of it has to be paid for at the municipal level. Each of police, fire and ambulance services costs us
probably $400 million a year. That is a fair chunk of our taxpayers' dollars.
Senator St. Germain: Having been elected to office and de-elected, I know the sensitivities that you are living with,
Your Worship, but you are a businessman, sir.
Mr. Mandel: Yes.
Senator St. Germain: I am sure you pride yourself on your business acumen. Edmonton is the largest of the 23
municipalities in this region, and I am sure you are called upon on numerous occasions to go and support scenarios in
the other 22 areas. Am I correct?
Mr. Mandel: In the history of Edmonton, I would not say that that is an accurate statement, no.
Senator St. Germain: No?
Mr. Mandel: We do go out and visit and we see, but, without getting too much into the politics, sometimes there is a
great deal of scepticism regarding the motives of Edmonton — we want to take over the world and the region. I do not
want to debate whether that historical scepticism is justified, but the challenge has been that we are not exactly the
most cohesive region.
Senator St. Germain: Maybe you should establish an unelected Senate so that they can tell the world exactly what
should happen without caring about the politics.
Mr. Mandel: We will suggest that. It might be a good idea.
Senator St. Germain: Do you not share sewage and water supplies?
Mr. Mandel: Well, we do and we do not. Water is predominately supplied by EPCOR, a company owned by the
City of Edmonton but at arm's length, and they supply how they supply. There are two major liquid waste systems, one
for the county and one for the city, but we share pipelines.
Sometimes an area to the south of the city needs our pipeline because they cannot get into the north of the city where
theirs are. There is cooperation on that level. It could be far better, but there is some cooperation. On areas of solid
waste, there is very little cooperation. Some use our facilities, some do not.
Senator St. Germain: I understand you are in the process of developing a heavy urban search and rescue unit?
Mr. Black: That would be in Calgary, senator.
Senator St. Germain: Oh, that is Calgary. You are not into that?
Mr. Mandel: No, we are not, not to my knowledge.
Senator St. Germain: The small city to the south.
Mr. Mandel: It is our bigger city.
Senator St. Germain: Mr. Black, I believe you said that the grants are small, cumbersome to access, and for capital
projects only; is that correct?
Mr. Black: That is correct.
Senator St. Germain: At the present time, do you need any equipment or capital cost investment that would enhance
the safety of Edmontonians?
Mr. Mandel: Before he answers, senator, I want to make it very clear that Edmontonians are very safe.
Senator St. Germain: I am not saying that they are not.
Mr. Mandel: I do not want it to be interpreted that they are not. We have a very good plan, but we can always use
Senator St. Germain: My question is this: Given the changing dynamics of industry and the boom situation
happening in the oil sector and in various other sectors of your economy, is there something that you need or that
would be ideal to enhance the excellent safety that now exists? How is that, Your Worship?
Mr. Mandel: Well done.
Mr. Black: Senator St. Germain, I can only go back to the two examples the mayor raised in his presentation. The
first one is to have sustained funding for our CBRNE program. We received a pot of money three or four years ago to
buy equipment. We received very limited training from the federal government in Ottawa.
Some of that equipment is now reaching shelf-life stage and needs to be replaced. There is no ongoing funding to
replace that equipment. It would be nice to have sustained funding to maintain that capability because it is an
important capability, and we should not be carrying the load.
The second example is our emergency operations centre. We have a functional facility. It is very small. We would be
hard-pressed to manage a regional event out of that facility. We just do not have the space to bring together many
organizations in the event of a large-scale emergency.
Senator St. Germain: Are you referring to physical space?
Mr. Black: Yes. Those are two examples of where we could use funding to make things better.
Senator Moore: Your Worship, you mentioned that sometimes you participate in federal funding programs to access
money rather than have the guy at the table, whereas you could use the money more beneficially for other projects.
Could you give us an example of that?
Mr. Mandel: I would be more familiar with housing examples than with emergency preparedness. Mr. Black could
give you examples specific to emergency preparedness. In general terms, what happens is that the government sets
guidelines for programs; that is the box, and if we want to access that pot of money, we have to fit in the box. Even
though the government's box does not fit what we need, we have to put our half of the money into getting what we can
out of the box. We are not going to buy something that is useless for us, but we could find something that might be
better or more effective outside of the box.
That happens a lot with federal programs. I do not know why they put those parameters on them, but that is the
problem. We have to define what our needs are. I know the federal government has a much broader perspective to
cover the whole country, but sometimes you will find a program where it would be a little easier to qualify for the
things you need.
Senator Banks: Are the JEPP criteria wrong or too restrictive?
Mr. Black: I would suggest they are too restrictive. A perfect example I eluded to earlier is that we have shelf-life
expired equipment in our CBRNE program that was purchased with federal funding. We cannot use JEPP money to
replace it because it has a shelf life. The logic of that escapes me, but if I refer back to a comment made by Mr. Egener
earlier, it is process versus results. We are focused on results.
Senator Moore: I gather then that the answer to Senator St. Germain's question about whether you want to buy
some other equipment to enhance the safety you now have is yes. You would replace and update equipment. I keep
hearing the word ``update.''
Mr. Mandel: We would like to see reasonable parameters so that we can use money to replace equipment. To
illustrate the situation, we use federal money to buy a widget, and then five years later the widget is no longer usable
and there is no more program. Someone has to fund the widget because we put it into our system. They come to city
council and want money out of our inelastic funds to replace the widget, or fix the road or whatever, and then we have
to come up with the money.
The Chairman: I am hearing you say that you would like to have unrestricted funding that you match within the
general rubric of emergency preparedness and that a program of that nature would be more logical, from your
perspective, than the current program. Is that correct?
Mr. Mandel: I would guess such a program would be divided between the capital and the operating side, with a clear
delineation between the two.
The Chairman: I am hearing two arguments now, sir, because if there is a division, then you will find some people in
the sink where they need operating funding and other folks need capital funding, and they are asking why this line is
arbitrarily drawn here. I thought you wanted the flexibility to spend program money either on capital or on operating
costs. I understood you thought that was a more sensible approach for the city.
Mr. Mandel: Absolutely. That is our dream, but it never seems to happen, so —
The Chairman: Let us start with the dream and argue from that point.
Mr. Mandel: Sure. We would like to have unfettered use of that money and to be able to decide how we want to use
The Chairman: You would match it?
Mr. Mandel: That is right.
The Chairman: It would be within the general rubric of emergency response, correct?
Mr. Mandel: Absolutely. There is no question about that. I do not want to be confusing about that point.
The Chairman: Frankly, if, as we wander about the country, more municipalities come forward and say exactly that,
that will eventually become a very compelling argument in Ottawa.
Senator St. Germain: Your Worship, you have a unique situation. You have a fairly good, strong military presence.
Mr. Mandel: Yes, we have a wonderful military presence.
Senator St. Germain: How does that tie into your emergency preparedness scenario, especially with respect to first
responders? Is it working well?
Mr. Black: Senator St. Germain, I am sure you understand that the process in Canada is that municipalities go
through the province to access federal support, and it is exactly the same here in Edmonton. Even though we have a
large garrison, if we wanted military support or if we thought we needed their resources, our first step would be to go to
the province. They would assess the requirements, and if they felt it was the appropriate resource, they would then go
to the military. That process is common across Canada.
There is a large military base right on our northern boundary, and we maintain close, informal contact with the
base. We have a good working relationship with them, and I have no doubt that in the event of an emergency, not only
the official but also the unofficial communications systems would work. As someone at this table said earlier, people
will stand together in an emergency. I am confident in our relationships with the military.
It was also mentioned earlier that Canada Command has been talking about identifying municipal-level liaison
officers. We look forward to that and applaud the idea. We expect that the liaison officers will come from a local unit,
so they will have ground knowledge. We are quite happy with the situation.
Senator Day: We understand that Canada Command has started implementing the liaison officer project, so it
should be coming fairly quickly to a municipality near you.
I would like to ask you about the Lake Wabamun railroad disaster that occurred a while back. Were any of
Edmonton's resources called out for that event?
Mr. Lamb: The short answer is that no fire resources were requested or sent out.
Senator Day: What about chemical resources? There was a potential chemical spill.
Mr. Lamb: That would include our hazardous materials team.
Senator Day: Yes, and were they called out?
Mr. Lamb: No, sir.
Mr. Black: I believe that we did not make any formal deployments. A couple of our citizens may have deployed as
volunteers as part of the cleanup, but other than that, we never had a request for resources or support.
Senator Day: If the hazardous materials expertise that you have developed here was not called out, who handled
that aspect at Wabamun? Is there another provincial group, because it is a rural area?
The Chairman: Is the stuff just sitting there?
Senator Day: Or is it not as important over there?
Mr. Black: I believe that the environmental commission identified that as a shortfall, and steps have now been taken
to form an Alberta environment task force or SWAT team, if you like, that would be able to respond more quickly to
events like the Wabamun disaster to do exactly what you just described.
Senator Day: As I understand it from reading the commission's report, the SWAT team would only assess the
problem, not deal with it. Maybe I misread that. Are you suggesting that there will be a team that can go out and
actually deal with such hazardous materials disasters?
Mr. Black: I am not intimately familiar with how the team will be structured, but even if, as you say, the team just
does an assessment, at least that would be a first step, to identify what resources were required which could then be
requested from the appropriate authorities, whether industry, other municipalities, or what have you. It is very much a
positive step forward.
Senator Day: Are there any existing protocols between municipalities that have developed expertise, which could be
called upon outside of the municipality?
Mr. Lamb: There is a process for the fire department to respond out of the city upon a request. We also maintain a
number of formal and informal mutual aid agreements with municipalities outside the City of Edmonton, so we could
respond if requested.
Senator Day: Would the municipality be reimbursed for services offered outside of the jurisdiction of the
Mr. Mandel: We would assume we would get reimbursed, but I am not sure we would worry about that. If we
needed to respond, we would respond.
However, that goes to the heart of Senator Bank's questions. Right now the situation is that we respond if you ask,
if you call. I think the challenge is to have a response system where we can respond in proper form and manner, rather
than always having to be requested.
Senator Day: What I am getting to, Your Worship, is that your taxpayers are paying a lot of money to develop an
expertise here, and you are saying, ``We are developing that expertise, and we are prepared to go wherever it needs to
go because we are good people.''
Yet we have been talking here for the last hour about the importance of getting funds to this municipality because
we cannot do a broader planning; it just does not seem to work. You have developed an expertise here that is valuable,
very valuable to your citizens of this community, but also valuable to the greater part of Northern Alberta as well.
Mr. Mandel: We do not disagree with you, senator. The problem is that there are jurisdictions within our
boundaries. To go outside those boundaries, we need the cooperation of those adjoining municipalities and/or the
province in order to set up as part of the environment system the kind of integration needed as a result of the
Wabamun issue. As much as we would like to, we cannot just run out.
I will give you an example. A new casino was built just outside the city on one of the reserves, and we have a
contract with them to supply them with fire service. If there is a problem, we put on staff, we get the alarm, we are
Senator Moore: Is Lake Wabamun near Edmonton? What municipality is it in? It does not say in this report.
Mr. Black: Lake Wabamun is west of the city.
Senator Moore: How far away?
Mr. Mandel: It is about 60 kilometres away, an hour.
Senator Moore: In which municipality is it located?
Mr. Mandel: Wabamun is a town in the county.
Mr. Black: Parkland County.
Senator Moore: Is it under that municipality?
Mr. Mandel: Yes. It is its own municipal unit, but it is within the County of Parkland. I do not know what the
historical relationship is between Wabamun and its particular county with respect to fire and ambulance and so on.
The counties supply to their municipalities based upon need for service or some form of relationship.
Mr. Black: I am not all that familiar with the relationship between Wabamun and the county, but in the province
there are many circumstances of very small municipalities and counties that share services and have mutual aid
Senator Moore: If you do exercises, in this case, hazardous materials exercises, following from this incident, would
you include outside municipalities in your exercises, or are they done strictly within the confines of the City of
Mr. Black: We exercise regularly in the city. Our scenarios typically take place within the city. However, two years
ago we had a major exercise that involved a chemical fire right on the boundary of the city and Strathcona County, and
Strathcona County sent staff to our emergency operations centre to observe and to participate.
Bear in mind that much of our cooperation is not only with other municipalities. We have to deal with industry and
commerce as well. We have had major exercises with the West Edmonton Mall, for example, which is an entity in itself.
We are probably not officially structured to exercise with outside agencies or outside municipalities, but we certainly
involve them as much as we can when we do exercises.
The Chairman: I am perhaps a bit confused, but the last time we had hearings here on this subject, the impression the
committee came away with was that Red Deer was sort of the magic line; north of Red Deer, Edmonton took a
broader responsibility in the area of emergency response, while Calgary did south of that. Did we misunderstand?
Mr. Black: Senator Kenny, that was specifically in relationship to CBRNE and only that.
The Chairman: Only that?
Mr. Black: In the proposed provincial plan at the time, Red Deer would have been the dividing line. North of Red
Deer, Edmonton would have had the secondary or tertiary response; south of that would have been Calgary. There is
no prevalent plan for other kinds of emergency response.
Senator Day: I have a short concluding question, again along the lines of funding. I think it is unfair to expect a
population base to develop expertise that is needed and to use that expertise outside their jurisdiction without receiving
the proper funding.
You mentioned that you are in the process of establishing a comprehensive community emergency preparedness
program in conjunction with your corporate sponsor, ATCO Gas. Could you explain the corporate sponsorship
approach to getting some funds to do this emergency planning exercise?
Mr. Black: I would be delighted, because that is one of our real success stories. We have a very good emergency
program in the city. The next step was to push it out to the public, to the community level, and to other communities.
We approached some of our industrial partners, and ATCO Gas expressed the desire to work with us. They work very
closely with us to develop the program and they fund a large part of it. We develop the products together and we
present the program together. It has been very successful. I would say it is a successful bit of inventiveness on our part
to maximize our contacts with other elements in the community to help out financially with our emergency program.
Senator Day: Is this program broader than just matters that might impact their industrial activities?
Mr. Black: Absolutely. We embrace the entire spectrum of community, family and individual emergency
Senator Day: I congratulate you on that initiative and ATCO Gas on its participation. Do you know whether a
similar approach is being taken in emergency planning activity anywhere else?
Mr. Black: I am not aware that it is being done elsewhere, although I do know that in some of our neighbouring
municipalities there are strong connections between the petrochemical industry and the local authorities around
emergency preparedness. That only makes sense if you have a big refinery right next to your town.
The program we have developed with ATCO Gas is being moved to other municipalities in Alberta under the
auspices of ATCO. They will take what we have developed to another municipality, modify it, and work with that
municipality to implement it. Maybe that is something other organizations can consider in the future.
Senator Day: That is very interesting.
Mr. Mandel: Mr. Chairman, I am very sorry. We have a council meeting, and there is an item for which I am
supposed to be back.
The Chairman: We detected that and we understand.
Your Worship, thank you very much for your participation and leadership in this. I would like to say to all of you
that we believe this work is essential. It is not noticed; it is prophylactic spending for which it is hard to catch the
attention of different orders of government, but it is fundamental to the safety of our citizens. We are very impressed
with the quality of your presentation and of the work that is going on in this community — and in the province, I
Thank you all very much for appearing today. We will be back to you with our questionnaire, which was very
helpful in the preparation of our last report. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for assisting us with this
Mr. Mandel: On behalf of the City of Edmonton, we want to thank you for including us in your study. It is a big
issue. When disaster happens, that is when everybody talks about it. The important challenge is to prepare ahead of
time so that we do not have a problem.
The Chairman: That is exactly right, sir. Thank you very much.
The committee adjourned.