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Ottawa’s approach to disaster response, recovery does not address increasing frequency of extreme weather


July 25, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter


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Uneven distribution of disaster events in Canada means the federal government should rethink its current approach to disaster response and recovery, including reinstating Ottawa’s share of disaster-related costs, suggest Canada’s Premiers, who Friday wrapped their 2016 Summer Meeting in Whitehorse.

“Premiers agreed that the federal government’s current approach to disaster response and recovery does not stabilize impacted jurisdictions or address the increasing frequency of extreme weather events related to climate change, such as wildland fires and floods,” notes a statement from Canada’s Premiers.

“Recent events across Canada have underscored the need for strong and co-ordinated systems for disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery,” the premiers report.

“Premiers discussed the need for the federal government to recommit to its critical and stabilizing role in these areas,” they add.

Related: Direct economic impact of Fort McMurray wildfire expected to reach US$5 billion: Impact Forecasting

Changes to Ottawa’s Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements last year “substantially reduced the federal government’s share of disaster-related costs, offloading these onto individuals, provinces and territories,” the statement emphasizes. In response, the premiers urge Ottawa to do the following:

  • reinstate funding thresholds back to pre-2015 levels;
  • quickly reimburse the up-front disaster costs that provinces and territories pay for at the time of the event;
  • expand the program coverage of catastrophic events;
  • work with the insurance industry to expand the availability of and access to insurance products related to disasters; and
  • improve federal disaster assistance for replacement infrastructure built to a more resilient standard.
Premiers summer meeting Yukon 2016

Premiers summer meeting Yukon 2016

With an eye to prevention, the premiers are calling on the federal government to increase its financial commitment to preventing disasters through the National Disaster Mitigation Program and to expand the scope to cover other catastrophic events. These would include wildland fires, ice storms and landslides.

The current commitment of “$40 million a year for five years for the whole country is not adequate to meet major high-priority flood protection needs across Canada,” the premiers emphasize.

In addition, the premiers called on Ottawa to bolster its existing disaster mitigation efforts by contributing significant new funding for the implementation of the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy.

Part of the strategy’s focus is to foster resilient communities, which premiers support, but add “real progress toward the vision will require enhanced and expanded collaboration and a commitment of resources from all governments.”

Related: U.S. forum urges need for disaster-exposed communities to be more resilient: A.M. Best

Pointing out that clustered events in individual provinces or territories have the potential to put immense strain an individual jurisdiction’s fiscal capacity, the premiers agreed they would direct their ministers responsible for emergency management to “collaborate to develop a new model for disaster response and recovery and to work with the federal government to create a modernized Emergency Management Framework for Canada.”

Related: Canada must work to be better-prepared for natural disasters: IBC’s Forgeron


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1 Comment » for Ottawa’s approach to disaster response, recovery does not address increasing frequency of extreme weather
  1. Robert Muir says:

    The article suggests an increasing frequency of extreme weather, which one assumes means rainfall given focus on flooding. A distinction should be made between increasing flooding and increasing rainfall, since in many regions of Canada Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Engineering Climate Datasets show deceasing or flat trends – this was published in Atmosphere-Ocean in 2014:
    https://www.slideshare.net/RobertMuir3/storm-intensity-not-increasing-factual-review-of-engineering-datasets
    Canadian Underwriter has already consulted ECCC on this:
    https://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/insurance/new-ibc-flood-model-shows-1-8-million-canadian-households-at-very-high-risk-1004006457/
    And has noted that:
    “Associate Editor’s Note: In the 2012 report Telling the Weather Story, commissioned to the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Professor Gordon McBean writes: “Weather events that used to happen once every 40 years are now happening once every six years in some regions in the country.” A footnote cites “Environment Canada: Intensity-Duration-Frequency Tables and Graphs.” However, a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada told Canadian Underwriter that ECCC’s studies “have not shown evidence to support” this statement. ”
    There can be an increasing in flooding without in increase in rainfall – for example, urbanization affects runoff that drives flood risk and this has increased in most cities (unlike rainfall):
    http://www.cityfloodmap.com/2016/08/urbanization-and-runoff-explain.html

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