During an emergency, whether it be a flood, train derailment or ice storm, members of the public often ask, “Will the province declare a state of emergency?” This a valid question, but what does it actually mean?
Many people get their idea of what declaring a state of emergency entails from the United States. There, emergency declarations are required to access federal assistance and emergency response funding. For example, if Florida wants FEMA to help after a hurricane, the state needs to declare a state of emergency.
In Canada, however, declaring a state of emergency has nothing to do with funding or federal help. Instead, a declaration is made by the minister of Public Safety to empower the government to take extraordinary measures to address a problem.
A declaration can be made for any number of reasons, ranging from fixing prices for food, clothing, fuel, equipment, medical or other essential supplies to demanding people evacuate their homes. The goal is to correct a problem affecting the public’s wellbeing.
When the minister is satisfied that an emergency exists or may exist, the minister may declare a state of emergency at any time with respect to all or any area of the province. These measures are only made when absolutely necessary and for a specific time frame.