Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge in July to help “every family” affected by the 2017 B.C. wildfires is a bitter memory for Larry and Diana Badke of 100 Mile House.
Their 64-acre property was burned along with many others by the Gustafson wildfire. Despite Trudeau’s July 24 pledge to “stand with British Columbians every step of the way” with disaster assistance, the Badkes have been told they receive nothing, because they couldn’t get insurance for their retirement home and small ranch.
“To make matters worse, the federal government thinks logging our burned timber is some sort of capital gain,” Larry Badke wrote in a letter to his MLA, Donna Barnett. “They will tax us [on] 50 per cent for what we manage to receive from logging our decimated property.”
The tax was the “ultimate kick in the guts” after being refused assistance by the Red Cross because it’s not his permanent residence (a direction the Red Cross takes from the provincial government) and the provincial wildfire assistance program, Badke says. Rancher assistance didn’t cover them because they had not yet received farm classification for the property.
The Badkes had fenced the wooded property with a cabin to prepare for construction of their “dream retirement home” and a cattle grazing operation. Their insurance company would not yet cover the property because the cabin was on concrete pads and not a permanent foundation, according to Badke.
“Wasn’t the $150 or $200 million the Red Cross was handed by our two governments and generous donors supposed to be used to assist wildfire victims in B.C.?” Badke asked.
Barnett says the Badkes are among many who have been left out of the assistance program for one technical reason or another.
“People need help and they need help now,” Barnett said. “Some of them had no insurance, some of them had recreational places that were going to be their retirement homes. There are all kinds of people who had 60 acres, 100 acres that were burnt, and they would have never logged it.”
Cathy McLeod, MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, told the 100 Mile House Free Press that she has been trying for two weeks to get an answer from the Canada Revenue Agency about whether the capital gains tax has to apply to salvage logging, without success. She said while Ottawa provided $100 million for wildfire assistance to the Red Cross, the B.C. government decides who got the $600 relief payments and other help.
CRA has not responded to Black Press requests for information on the case.
“The federal government, for most areas, simply writes the cheque based on the provincial government decision and a very specific cost-sharing formula,” McLeod said.
B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson told Black Press the Badke case is the first of its kind he has heard of, and he is concerned that the Badkes and other wildfire victims may be in a “Catch 22” due to lack of insurance.
“As far as financial disaster assistance arrangements, it’s a federal program,” Donaldson said. “It’s for losses that could be insurable, so if a person didn’t hold insurance, but could have, then disaster financial assistance doesn’t necessarily apply.”
Barnett says the time for bureaucratic buck-passing is over.
“This is about humanity now,” Barnett said. “How are people going to move on and how are people going to pay their own bills, if all these things are hitting them that were no fault of theirs?
“Some of it was lightning, some of it wasn’t lightning. We can’t decide who’s paying for what, we’ve got to help everybody.