Rising global tension, notably over North Korea, has prompted federal officials to review and in some cases revise a series of critical contingency plans, including one that involves the evacuation of the federal cabinet to a secure military base outside of Ottawa.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was asked Wednesday what would happen should a missile land in Canada.
He answered, “When it comes to any type of foreign threats, we take them extremely seriously. We’ve been looking at North Korea right from the beginning when I was given this portfolio. I am very mindful of the country’s missile testing that they have been doing. We believe that the diplomatic solution is the way to go, because I think that there is hope for it.”
The Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic wing of the PM’s Office, drafted an agreement with National Defence a year ago to open up bunkers on two military bases should the National Capital Region become “unviable.”
Each location is classified in the heavily redacted briefing dated Aug. 2, 2016, and only referred to as “Alpha and Bravo sites.”
The agreement is part of the federal government’s overall plan for the “Continuity of Constitutional Government,” which aims to “ensure minimal or no interruption to the availability of critical services” during an emergency or natural disaster in Ottawa.
The federal government has long had contingency plans, known internally as CONPLANS, for a variety of emergencies running the gamut between earthquakes and floods through terrorism to full-scale war.
What is different lately, according to experts, is that officials are being forced to think more often in Cold War terms, particularly when it comes to the threat of a North Korean missile striking Canada, either as an accident or by design.
Sean Maloney, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and a Cold War expert, said he believes the issue is bigger than just whether there are contingency plans to keep the government operating. He questions what sort of civil preparedness is going on.
A nuclear blast brings with it an electromagnetic pulse that would fry power grids over a much wider area than just the radius of the blast. That, in turn, would take down not only businesses but public infrastructure, such as water and sewage plants.