Ontario is ill-equipped to deal with risks like environmental, terrorism, and cyber-attacks

Published: December 7, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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Ontario’s auditor general published a report on Wednesday that shows the province is ill-equipped to deal with severe risks and plans currently in place to manage cat events, cyber-attacks, and terrorism are not adequate and desperately need to be updated.

In the report, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says the province’s severe weather plan is antiquated and has not been reviewed for 12 years. Further gaps in Ontario’s risk management include new information for cyber-attacks and terrorism not making its way to the Ontario government disaster preparedness plan.

Recent climate research has “focused attention on the increasing likelihood of more frequent and extreme natural hazards,” Lysyk said in an annual report.

“The severe weather plan at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services was last updated in 2005,” she said. “This is of concern due to the increasing effects of climate change and events such as the ice storm that hit southern Ontario in 2013.”

The Community Safety and Correctional Services serves are Ontario’s department to prepare for major environmental risks like earthquake, storms, and rain. It also oversees other risks like terrorism. The Ontario government “last updated its terrorism and civil disorder plans in 2010,” Lysyk wrote.

“The latest overall provincial risk assessment was done in 2012 based on emergencies experienced in Ontario up to 2009,” Lysyk added. “Therefore, the current provincial emergency management program has not considered emergencies that have occurred over the past eight years, or the latest information on the effects of climate change and other developing risks such as cyberattacks and terrorism.”

In the time since the last reviews, a lot has changed. Environmental risks has increased in frequency and severity due to climate changes. The global terrorism threats has increased significantly with the rise of ISIS and volatile political situations around the world. Additionally, cyber-threats have also increased in severity.

“A formal declaration of an emergency may be made if conditions in a municipality or in the province meet certain criteria, such as when a ministry’s existing resources are not sufficient to address the emergency or they cannot be relied upon without the risk of serious delay,” Lysyk said in the report.