Opinion

OUR VIEW: First search, then rescue and then charge

Another day, another story about outdoorsy people getting lost in the wilderness.

As usual, when this kind of emergency occurs, it’s up to the dedicated people at search and rescue to leave their homes, put on their gear and comb the woods, mountain or whereever this particular person has managed to misplace themselves.

While the most recent story had a happy ending — two lost adventurers found their own way out of Mother Nature’s icy, deadly grasp — they don’t all end that way. Some searches require a huge amount of manpower, machinery and a huge cost. The question that is always debated at this time of year is who should pay the usually significant cost to stage a rescue attempt? Some argue that the government should cover the costs, after all it’s our tax money. But wait! If you need an ambulance, isn’t there a surcharge for that service? So doesn’t it makes sense that a lost hiker, skier, snowmobiler or whomever, should at least pay something towards their rescue efforts?

In British Columbia, where outdoor tourism is hugely important, shouldn’t there be a penalty on those who put themselves in dangerous situations? Accidents do happen, but in many cases the situation occurs because of lack of planning, lack of experience or just a flagrant disregard for safety. People should pay something for those mistakes. If people are going out of bounds in ski areas or are acting contrary to conventional risk management precautions, then they should shoulder some of the cost of the rescue. It’s not realistic to charge them for the full cost of the rescue but some kind of penalty – sorry, contribution – is not unreasonable.

Tourism is important to the province and we don’t want to deter people from enjoying the great outdoors. Our tax dollars do support search and rescue and rightly so if people take reasonable precautions but a contribution from people who do stupid things is warranted.

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