UBCM To Debate SAR Funding Model

UBCM To Debate SAR Funding Model
Flying over Whistler Village in 2008

CKNW Reports that the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) are going to debate a resolution on funding for Search and Rescue in BC.

Below is the resolution, from the 2013 Resolution book

WHEREAS search and rescue squads in British Columbia are not directly funded through the Province, each year they are required to apply for gaming grants which are not guaranteed and amounts vary;
AND WHEREAS search and rescue squads provide an extremely valuable service in our vast province and consistent annual core funding, including equipment costs should be provided by the Province:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that UBCM request the provincial government to directly fund 100% of the costs for search and rescue squad services.

The UBCM’s resolution sounds remarkably similar to my post of a few weeks ago; SAR funding in BC is not consistent, not equitable and not rational. The UBCM has pegged the consistent and equitable problem in their resolution, just as the “Levelling the playing field” final report from BCSARA  does.

Many people have commented to me via email and in person that my post echoes their own position. As I’ve stated before, none of the things I write on this blog come from a vacuum; I read the BCSARA final report, and I regularly talk to SAR leaders. Most of what I wrote was gleaned from the comments from SAR experts across the province.

The problems with the SAR funding model are well known to anyone who has any exposure to how things work in BC, and the UBCM is well aware of them. In fact, they have been introducing resolutions to change the model for the past decade.

The 2009 Resolution (page 26)

WHEREAS search and rescue organizations provide essential life and safety services to British Columbia’s residents and visitors through volunteer organizations funded largely by private fundraising, local government grants and other forms of uncertain revenues;
AND WHEREAS the costs of providing search and rescue services are escalating dramatically due to call volumes, equipment costs and necessary liability insurance:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of BC Municipalities petition the provincial government to provide a significant level of predictable and sustainable funding to the province’s search and rescue organizations, including provision of adequate liability insurance.

Very similar to the 2008 Resolution (page 25)

WHEREAS Search and Rescue programs consist of teams of volunteers that provide essential support to the
First Responder Agencies to assist with the search and rescue of British Columbia’s visitors and residents, both on land and in the water;
AND WHEREAS Search and Rescue programs receive funding from private funding events, grant-in-aid
contributions from local governments and other grants, to assist with their operating and capital needs:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities be requested to seek annual funding from the provincial government that is adequate and predictable to support Search and Rescue organizations throughout the province, with their operating and capital needs, to ensure that the organizations continue to function effectively

And the 2006 Resolution (page 35)

WHEREAS Search and Rescue organizations provide an essential service to British Columbia’s visitors and residents;
AND WHEREAS the funding for Search and Rescue organizations is a mix of private fundraising events, local government grants and other grants:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of BC Municipalities petition the provincial government to provide adequate, predictable funding for Search and Rescue organizations.

In fact, resolutions regarding Search and Rescue go back as far as the UBCM has been recording their resolutions (2003).

A Provincial Matter

Although unstated in their resolutions, I believe that the Union of BC Municipalities recognizes that Search and Rescue is a provincial responsibility. Many SAR teams enjoy the support of their local districts or municipalities, which often lets adjoining municipal agencies “off the hook” so to speak — they feel no need to support the SAR group from another city, while still enjoying the benefit of their service.

A more equitable model would see all parts of the province share equally in funding for SAR.

SAR groups respond to huge areas of the province that are outside the jurisdiction of most municipalities. These areas share governance between the province, and the “regional districts”. One of the proposals that makes the most sense for funding Search and Rescue in BC is to tie the governance and administration of SAR services to the regional districts in the same way certain other services for these areas of the province.

I’ll write about that at another time.


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