New Democrat Party leader Tom Mulcair stopped at Benson Creek Falls Regional Park Tuesday to announce a party plan to invest in natural disaster aid.

New Democrat Party leader Tom Mulcair stopped at Benson Creek Falls Regional Park Tuesday to announce a party plan to invest in natural disaster aid.

Election 2015: New Democrat leader pledges return of Joint Emergency Preparedness Program

NANAIMO – NDP leader Tom Mulcair announced a three-part plan to help provinces and territories with natural disasters.

New Democrat Party leader Tom Mulcair promised a $9-million annual investment in emergency training and preparedness during a campaign stop in Nanaimo Tuesday morning.

Mulcair kicked off the first of three campaign stops on Vancouver Island at Nanaimo’s Benson Creek Falls Regional Park with Nanaimo firefighters, to pledge the return of the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program under a federal NDP government.

The program, now defunct, began in 1980 and government guidelines show it was aimed at helping communities, provinces and territories be better prepared for emergencies, with dollars contributed for emergency planning, equipment, training and reimbursements for urban search and rescue.

Mulcair said the New Democrats will invest $7-million annually into the program, as well as $2 million each year in emergency training programs, and work with provinces on Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement.

“The preparedness program was something that was simply peeled back by the Conservatives. They shut down the college where we were doing this training and they’ve completely changed the threshold to get your money in case of emergencies,” he said, adding these are places the federal government can act immediately.

“What we do want to do is sit down and come up with a plan for the future that’s realistic, that takes into account the increasing numbers of wildfires and floods that we’re facing in Canada as a result of global warming and climate change.”

Sheila Malcolmson, NDP candidate for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding, said she sees the role of federal government as partnering with local crews and provincial governments to improve the ability to respond in “a time of increased climate change and more firefighting risk.”

She said $7 million for the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program is a start.

“This is part of our offer to the crews and provinces and we’ll certainly hear from them if we do have the honour of forming government,” Malcolmson said.