June 20, 2018 by Greg Meckbach
Five years after Albertans lost billions as a result of record floods, Ontario leads the nation when it comes to keeping properties out of high-risk areas, a catastrophe loss expert contends.
“Ontario has been most aggressive at trying to make sure that there is no new construction in a flood zone,” Paul Kovacs, founder and executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), said Tuesday in an interview.
Five years ago Tuesday, flooding started in southern Alberta, inundating downtown Calgary. The flooding caused total economic losses of about $6 billion and insured losses of nearly $2 billion, Insurance Bureau of Canada reported.
Alberta is in “better shape” than it was five years ago when it comes to managing flood risk, said Kovacs, who is also president and CEO of Property and Casualty Insurance Compensation Corporation (PACICC).
In Canada, property flood risk is partly attributable to lax zoning regulations that allow development on low ground where floods are inevitable.
“There is quite a number of houses and developments in Canada that are on floodplains,” Robert Harrison, chairman of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, told Canadian Underwriter earlier.
“Ontario has been a leader in terms of stopping new development [in flood zones] for more than 60 years now,” Kovacs noted Tuesday, suggesting part of this was due to Hurricane Hazel. That storm caused heavy flooding in the fall of 1954, especially on floodplains of the Humber River in the Toronto area.
Hurricane Hazel killed 81 people and caused damage of more than $180 million, wrote Zainab Moghal and Shawna Peddle in a paper, At the Front Lines of Flood: How Prepared are Ontario Communities?, published by the University of Waterloo.
The City of Mississauga “routinely refuses“ applications for development in floodplains, Mississauga city planner Michael Hynes told the Ontario Municipal Board in 3085 Queen Frederica Inc. v Mississauga (City), a ruling released Mar. 8, 2018.
That ruling was over a settlement between a developer and the city arising from an application to convert an existing 11-storey apartment building into a condominium. The development, first developed in 1969, is along Little Etobicoke Creek, about eight kilometres south of Toronto International Airport.
Every property on Queen Frederica Drive was flooded after a rainstorm hit the western Greater Toronto Area in July 8, 2013 , witnesses told an OMB hearing in February. The storm caused Canada’s fourth most expensive insured catastrophe, with industry-wide losses reaching nearly $ 1 billion.
The OMB approved the settlement agreed to by 3085 Queen Frederica Inc., the City of Mississauga and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority. As part of the settlement, the developer agreed to dozens of conditions – including “installation of measures to protect openings in the building from flooding and to ensure that owners of condominium units are provided with a flooding manual, engage in evacuation drills and receive annual updates relating to flooding matters,” OMB member Justin Duncan wrote in the ruling.