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Amid Ongoing Wildfires, Nova Scotia Premier Reveals Federal Aid Following Hurricane Fiona Was Delayed Due to Improper Paperwork

During a press conference on Nova Scotia’s ongoing wildfires, Premier Tim Houston said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told him aid to the province following Hurricane Fiona was delayed because paperwork was improperly filled out.

“Once we’d kind of been through the urgency of the crisis, in my discussions with the prime minister, he looked me in the eye at one point and said that Nova Scotia didn’t fill out the proper forms, and that’s why the support hadn’t come as quickly,” Houston told reporters on June 1.

“I of course disagreed with that assessment, but suggested that even if that assessment were true, there’s a time to act and there’s a time to get more fulsome paperwork later. There was a time to act and it was missed.”

On Sept. 24 last year, a category 4 hurricane struck Canada’s east coast, knocking out power for around 400,000 customers in Nova Scotia, around 80,000 in Prince Edward Island, 40,000 in New Brunswick, and 3,000 in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fiona was the costliest and most intense tropical or post-tropical cyclone to ever hit Canada, with damages estimated to be at over $800 million.

Houston told reporters that while the Nova Scotia government initially requested 2,000 military personnel, the federal government only delivered between 200 and 300. “It was certainly inadequate in my estimation,” Houston said.

Houston said in the final assessment, it was determined that the correct paperwork had not been filled out, which resulted in delayed assistance. “Obviously, in these types of things, you can imagine the amount of paperwork that goes back and forth. It was literally binders and binders of paperwork … [Trudeau’s] suggestion that a piece was missing was not acceptable to me,” Houston said.

Houston Says Nova Scotia Learned From Miscommunication Mistakes

For five days, Nova Scotia has experienced an unprecedented number of wildfires, which have resulted in the destruction of over 200 homes and the evacuation of 20,000 people. The Canadian government has approved a request to send Canadian Armed Forces members to the province to assist, and the United States, South Africa, and Costa Rica are also sending firefighters.

After the miscommunication about federal aid following Hurricane Fiona, Houston said Nova Scotia “learned from that experience” and additional steps have been taken to ensure there are no more misunderstandings. “With that experience in mind, I was not willing to leave any room for a repeat when people’s houses were literally burning.”

Houston noted in his letter to the federal government requesting aid for the wildfires that “[i]f we have used the wrong terminology in any of our asks, or there are issues with the format of the ask, please be proactive and help us assist struggling Nova Scotians as quickly as possible.”

In order to fight the wildfires, the letter requests the federal government send military personnel and equipment, helicopters, vehicles, and temporary housing for firefighters coming from out of province. Nova Scotia is also seeking federal disaster relief funding through the Disaster Financial Assistance Agreement, commitments to match Red Cross donations to rebuild critical infrastructure, and for Ottawa to provide a temporary leave benefit to assist people unable to work because they are displaced.

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