New funding for B.C. Search and Rescue groups 

SAR organizations to receive $18.6 million over three years from province

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF BCSARA - SEARCH AND RESCUE FUNDING Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General  announces one-time funding of $18.6 million to BCSARA.
  • Photo courtesy of BCSARA
  • SEARCH AND RESCUE FUNDING Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General announces one-time funding of $18.6 million to BCSARA.

The province is giving $18.6 million in one-time funding to ground search and rescue (GSAR) groups throughout the province to be used over the next three years.

"In discussions with (the BC Search and Rescue Association), I've heard the ground search and rescue community's strong concerns about the need for both an immediate infusion of funding and a clearer path toward long-term sustainable funding," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General in a release March 23.

"That's why we're providing a record-level of funding as an immediate top-up of what B.C.'s GSAR groups are already receiving, as well as establishing a joint committee to move more quickly toward developing a sustainable funding model."

The news was well received by the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA).

"On behalf of the 80 ground search and rescue groups and 2,500 members across the province, our thanks to the provincial government for the single largest influx of funding for search and rescue to date," said Chris Kelly, president, BCSARA in a release. "The funds will provide critical core supports over the next three years, while final details are completed in the short term on a sustainable model."

The $18.6 million represent the single largest provincial GSAR investment in B.C.'s history-a 24 per cent increase from $5 million per year in supplemental funding announced in 2016. As well, Emergency Management BC has funding for two additional staff positions to work with BCSARA on the development and implementation of a new governance and funding model.

This new funding is in addition to funding that the province already provides each year-$9 million in 2017-18-to cover GSAR operational costs for deployment, as well as training and equipment costs, and the insurance and liability for the 80 groups serving B.C.

B.C.'s SAR groups were upset last month after no new funding was included in provincial budget (see Pique here, "Budget leaves parks and SAR hanging," March 2).

B.C.'s over-extended SAR groups have been asking the government for a more stable flow of cash for several years.

In 2015 BCSARA asked for a foundation to be created to create a stable funding model. The following year the Liberal government gave the organization a one-time payment of $10 million.

BCSARA said on its website that it will begin work immediately to implement a plan that will effectively allocate and distribute the funds quickly to the 80 GSAR groups, to the AdventureSmart SAR prevention and BCSARA Critical Incident Stress Management Programs.

"Work will also begin in setting the ground work for implementing the Alternative Support Model, including hiring support employees for BCSARA and the GSAR community. As the plan is built, messaging to the groups will come through your regional directors," stated the website.

"This is a momentous day for the ground search and rescue community in BC. On behalf of the 80 groups and their 2,500 volunteers who respond to 1,700 tasks annually, thank you!"

For more on this story pick up the next issue of Pique.

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