Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the Provincial Operations Centre in Alberta
Earlier today I visited Fort McMurray with Premier Notley and indigenous leaders. It was the first time I had visited since the wildfires passed through the city and it was a very powerful experience.
Together we had a chance to see both the incredible destruction that was the result of the fire and many of the homes and businesses that are still standing thanks to the efforts, incredible efforts, of first responders. It's those first responders who I want to acknowledge first.
These brave men and women have done, and continue to do, everything they can to protect and save Fort McMurray and surrounding communities. They’ve done it hour after hour, day after day. They’ve worked tirelessly to save their neighbours' homes, sometimes tragically while their own homes were being lost. These first responders are heroes in every sense of the word, and they have earned our thanks.
I also want to thank Premier Notley for the leadership she has shown. She and her team have done an excellent job of keeping us informed about the situation on the ground, and I want to thank her for being such a strong voice for Albertans and such a capable partner during this crisis.
To the many Albertans who opened their homes to those fleeing the wildfire, thank you for showing all of us what it truly means to be a good neighbour.
To those who are working and volunteering in emergency shelters, providing comfort and a continued sense of community to displaced residents, thank you for your kindness and your ongoing hard work.
To all the provinces, territories, cities, and towns that have sent their own first responders to Northern Alberta to help fight the fire, thank you for sharing your bravest citizens in this time of need.
To First Nations who have provided leadership in a number of ways by opening up their communities and homes to evacuees, by supporting the transportation of evacuees, or by making donations, and to the First Nation and Métis volunteer firefighting crews who are part of the effort to suppress the fire, thank you.
And finally, to the people of Canada, thank you for your generosity. In just 11 days $86 million has been donated to the Canadian Red Cross to help the people of Fort McMurray. With our government matching individual donations, that figure will rise much higher.
Thank you to all Canadians. Thank you for your generosity. In just 11 days, $86 million has been donated to the Canadian Red Cross to help the people of Fort McMurray. With our government matching individual donations, that figure will rise considerably.
Of course these funds can never replace all that has been lost, but with these gifts, you have shown that you care deeply about your fellow Canadians, that you grieve alongside them, that you will be there for them not just now when the need is most acute but also in the weeks and the months and in the years to come. That support will be essential as Fort McMurray begins to recover and rebuild from this tragedy.
As of right now we don't know how long that will take. We don't know exactly what kinds of resources will be needed, though we now have a much better sense of the scope of the devastation. The fire destroyed approximately 2,400 structures and damaged over 500 more. The important work of figuring out when and where and how we can start to rebuild has only just begun. Yesterday the government's ad hoc committee on Northern Alberta Wildfires met for the first time to help address both the urgent and the long-term needs of Fort McMurray and other communities affected by the Northern Alberta wildfires.
This work is in addition to the efforts already undertaken by many others. That includes the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces, who helped to evacuate 90,000 people, transported firefighters and equipment and delivered supplies, food and water. It also includes the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Red Cross, who provided emergency services and vital support to evacuees. Health Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, who helped respond to the needs of First Nations communities affected by … the fire. Public Safety Canada, who coordinated the emergency efforts at the federal level. And many, many others.
To the people of Fort McMurray, know that even though things may look difficult and uncertain and, at times perhaps almost hopeless, know that you are not alone. Canadians are standing with you. You can lean on us and you can count on us. Our government will do everything it can to get you back home safely just as soon as that’s possible.
I also want to share the news that, effective this July, following royal assent of the budget, more people in Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and in southern interior BC will be getting additional help from the federal government as we add them to the list of areas where residents will have access to extended Employment Insurance benefits. This brings to 15 the number of regions where extended benefits are available.
Here I need to thank the caucus members who have been such strong advocates for this expansion. Obviously Edmonton's own Amarjit Sohi and Randy Boissonault in particular, but also Ralph Goodale in southern Saskatchewan and Steve Fuhr in South interior BC, thank you for your hard work on behalf of the people of Edmonton, southern Saskatchewan, and southern interior BC.
I also want to announce that, as of July, people living in Edmonton, southern Saskatchewan, and southern interior BC will be getting additional help from the federal government as we add them to the list of areas where residents will have access to extended Employment Insurance benefits. Now, 15 regions across the country… the country will have access to extended EI benefits.
We said we would continue to monitor and assess the situation and act if need be. Edmonton, southern Saskatchewan, and the southern interior BC now meet the criteria we established. Here in Edmonton, this extension would mean that unemployed workers can claim an extra five weeks of regular benefits in addition to what they are already entitled to, up to a maximum of 50 weeks. This extension will provide the temporary financial support unemployed workers need while they search for work. For long tenured workers the extension would provide up to 20 additional weeks of benefits in addition to what they are already entitled to, up to a maximum of 70 weeks.
We're doing this because we've heard from the people in these regions. We understand their concerns and we've looked at the numbers. They show that additional help is merited. Canada is a great country because we work hard and we take care of each other, whether it's recovering from a disaster like a wildfire or helping our neighbours get back on their feet after a job loss, we lend our hand in tough times. It's who we are and it's what we do. And it's a pleasure and an honour for me to be here today, yet again here in Alberta, to tell Albertans that the federal government has your back -- that Canadians will be there for you through these difficult times.
Thank you very much.