Sunday, August 30, 2009

We Are Too Fractured to Have a Bomb Squad - So Now We Are at Risk

More than 50 homes were evacuated near Esquimalt, until the Vancouver-based RCMP bomb squad could perform a controlled detonation of potentially explosive chemicals.

This was a process that cost a significant amount of money and took at least six hours or more to arrange.

The alternative would have beeb to call CFB Esquimalt, just minutes away. They were not called. It appears that the Department of National Defence's desire for greater accountability in spending federal taxpayers' dollars, in part, led to stricter guidelines for the base. Previously, the Canadian Forces would sometimes respond to local incidents on an informal basis.

So what is the underlying issue here? One has to wonder if this problem would not have been resolved much more quickly and cheaply if there police/cites were amalgamated. What options would we have if amalgamated?

First we have a bomb squad, minutes away that has the training, manpower and resources to deal with bombs. It is very conceivable that a major, capital city (not 13 small constituencies) could negotiate with DND to provide bomb squad assistance, when needed at a reasonable cost. This would benefit the city, the Federal government and make a whole lot of sense.

Why is this not happening?
• Likely the idea of having to deal with multiple municipalities all in very close proximity, but which do not work together on all issues, makes it unlikely that the Federal government was even approached. A small city just cannot contemplate what to do on its own with a bomb. They likely just ignore the issue. I expect the Highlands may not have a lot of calls for bomb removal.
• Perhaps an annual fee should be paid, in which case, who would pay it?

Second, even if we ignore DND, is it not reasonable to hope that a city the size of Greater Victoria might have some people on staff who could provide this service? Then if there were a call from up island, say Duncan they could sell their services there much more quickly than having Vancouver come over?

The issue as always, is good government for the benefit of the people served. Good government for our area is not achieved by doling out power to small pockets. We lose out on so many opportunities which often become apparent when there is a problem. What if this were a live bomb in Oak Bay? No one can suggest it will not happen. At a minimum a larger city could reasonably put out the resources to consider and plan for the eventuality of a bomb. Maybe the answer would be to continue using Vancouver services. I doubt it.

DND needs to be accountable for their spending. By providing a service for a fee to avoid the nearby duplication of a service which has significant training costs but limited demand would benefit Canada and our local residents. An amalgamated city stands a better chance of making that happen.


Anonymous said...


Sometimes I think it would be a very good idea if you conducted some research before espousing what you presume to be fact.

Two years ago when the CRD was dealing with the Hazmat issue and bomb squad DND was indeed approached, and in fact pressured, to enter into an agreement to provide services in emergency situations.

The difficulty is that DND will not guarantee a response. If there is any military reason that the teams are needed for ( even training exercises ) then they will not attend civilian incidents.

I am sure that you can appreciate that your dedicated local politicians did not think this was good enough to protect the safety of our citizens, and therefore contracts were signed with Surrey for serious Hazmat incidents and with the RCMP for Bomb Squad needs.

This was the most cost effective way of dealing with incidents that arise very rarely. There was a proposal to have a regional hazmat team with all jurisdictions contributing but the costs were prohibitive. It is important to note that all jurisdictions were prepared to go ahead with this model.

James Legh said...


Fair comment about the research. I admit what I am doing for the most part is just looking at the news as it is today, not the history of the situation in many cases.

You may have seen that my concern is with good government and the ability to make reasonable decisions in an effective way.

Your comments point out that a regional hazmat team was considered by all jurisdictions. I suppose I should research it, but I have no doubt that it was not an easy process to consider the issue. The fact that someone/some group had to make presentations to 13 municipalities and that each area had to consider the issue and vote on it, simply reminds us all that the process is flawed. Perhaps the result in this case was acceptable. However, the process to get there was not.

Thanks for commenting.