Public policy papers The Role of Government in Services for Natural Disaster Mitigation Dan Henstra and Gordon McBean February 2004
Losses from natural disasters in Canada are increasing and evidence suggests that natural disasters will occur with greater frequency and intensity in the years to come. Despite this, disaster mitigation remains a low-priority issue for many, which raises a number of questions. Should disaster mitigation be primarily a government responsibility? What is the appropriate role for government in this endeavour? What are the services for disaster mitigation that a government can provide and what form should they take?
In answering these questions, we can take several points of view, including an economic perspective (i.e., which services should be provided by government?); a legal perspective (i.e., is the government legally liable if a citizen is harmed by a natural disaster?); and a moral perspective (i.e., what is the moral responsibility of a government to its people?). In light of these various viewpoints, it is suggested herein that disaster mitigation is an important and appropriate responsibility for government and resources should be made available to facilitate its implementation.
This paper identifies four tools that contribute to disaster mitigation (Planning, Hazard Assessment and Monitoring, Prediction and Warning Systems and Public Education and Research) and explores various government services that exist within these areas. Though there are many effective programs in Canada which contribute individually to disaster mitigation, a more coordinated and better supported effort is required to entrench a national mitigation strategy and reduce Canadian vulnerability to natural hazards over the long-term.