Federal government providing $2.8 billion for flood recovery
Nation: High River Mayor relieved to see funds in budget
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 12:03 pm
High River’s mayor is relieved to see the federal government step up with $2.8 billion in flood recovery funding announced in this month’s budget.
Mayor Craig Snodgrass said it shows a significant commitment to rebuilding efforts.
“You hear things and you expect things that it’s going to happen a certain way and there’s going to be so much money,” he said. “But you’re never totally convinced until it’s in your hand, until it’s been announced. To be able to hear $2.8 billion, it’s a lot of money and that’s exactly what we need is that kind of commitment to get,” he said.
The federal budget announced on Feb. 11 included $2.8 billion to help cover the costs of flood response and recovery efforts in Alberta. The federal government typically pays 90 per cent of the cost to respond to large-scale disasters and the funds will go to the provincial government.
Snodgrass hopes the federal funding will help to speed up the process of getting funding from the provincial disaster relief program (DRP) to municipalities and homeowners affected by the flood.
“That’s my hope that now that the commitment is there financially, that the provincial government can start to move a little quicker on the DRP,” he said.
The federal budget also proposes providing $200 million over the next five years for a national disaster mitigation program, starting in 2015. The program would support construction of infrastructure to control floods and reduce their impact. The government will announce more details in the coming months. The government’s economic action plan also proposes providing $40 million over five years for disaster mitigation work on First Nations reserves.
The government also said it will explore the possibility of opening the door to flood insurance. The budget states the federal government will meet with the insurance industry and provinces to explore options for a national approach to providing residential flood insurance.
Snodgrass is hopeful part of the proposed $200 million mitigation plan will go towards the construction of a diversion channel around High River.
He said it’s a good step to look at opening the door to flood insurance and it will help people to protect their investments in their homes.
However, Snodgrass also wants to see more consistency with how insurance claims are handled.
“The frustrating thing is that one house gets it and the next door neighbour, depending on what company you’re with, there’s such a gap between how things are done,” he said.
MD Reeve Larry Spilak said federal flood support was not only expected, it’s much needed.
He said repairs and recovery work done after last year’s flood were necessary and financial assistance from the provincial and federal governments are essential to help municipalities cover the repair bills.
“If it wasn’t for the federal government and provincial government coming up with the money we would have to find it on the tax dollars in some way, and fortunately we don’t have to go through that,” said Spilak.
Alberta’s municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes said the federal government is meeting its commitments with this year’s budget, but it has historically been slow to pay disaster funding. He said the Province received part of the federal funding for the 2005 flood last year.
“Our request to them is we’d like to get paid sooner rather than later because we’re front ending this,” said Hughes. “Our province is making payments today and next year and we’d like t see the federal government step up.”
He said the $200 million in funding for mitigation projects won’t go very far to build the mitigation projects under consideration.
“The proposals that are coming at us suggest we’re going to need several times that in terms of funds to do the mitigation projects,” he said. “We’re already spending way more than that on mitigation projects in High River alone, let alone the rest of the province.”
He said faster funding from the federal government would not speed up the DRP program. However, he said the province has already take steps to do that.
“That has lead to a really substantial increase in the number of files hat are being resolved,” he said.
He said the Province would work with the federal government on flood insurance, but it’s something that all provinces will need to be involved.