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Feds say cellphone-alert system not just their responsibility

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld</p><p>Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale wants the provinces and rural municipalities to have a hand in implementing the country's public alerting system.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale wants the provinces and rural municipalities to have a hand in implementing the country's public alerting system.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/1/2019 (489 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The federal government says it won’t foot the entire bill in the effort to ensure rural Manitobans receive alerts about natural disasters.

"This take a lot of collaboration," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Friday. "We all have our responsibilities to discharge, with regards to the public alerting system."

Goodale was speaking in a teleconference from Edmonton, where provincial and territorial ministers responsible for emergency management crafted a national strategy on the issue.

Last summer, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister called on Ottawa to help the province upgrade its cellphone coverage network.

A category-EF4 tornado touched down last August in the town of Alonsa, 200 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, killing 77-year-old Jack Furrie. Local residents reported inconsistent warnings; some received emergency alerts on their cellphones and others lost connectivity.

Like many rural communities, part of Alonsa was not hooked up to LTE cellular phone service, which necessary to receive a text message from a government emergency alert network.

Days later, Pallister played down the idea of the province helping to underwrite the cost upgrading rural areas to LTE. He’d mulled the idea in 2016, but said it was "a premature suggestion," while his office added "the federal government is best positioned" to address the issue.

Goodale said Friday different levels must "contribute" to keep improving the system.

"This is not a federal system; it is a truly comprehensive system where all jurisdictions are involved: municipal, provincial, federal — the private sector is involved," he said.

Goodale noted even residents have to make sure their cellphones are new enough to receive such alerts.

A spokesman for the Pallister government wrote Friday it does intend to help fund such networks, citing an unrelated $20-million commitment a year ago for rural broadband access.

"We will continue to work with industry, the business community and other levels of government to improve wireless coverage in the province," wrote Kevin Engstrom.

He added Bell MTS upgraded Alonsa’s local network after the tornado.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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