Natural disaster relief in Canada being overhauled

Ottawa –

Canada’s Karoshi Assistance Program is being reviewed to ensure that future projects are eligible for assistance only if they consider their adaptation needs to climate change.

BC 2021 Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, who visited British Columbia this week for a second round of disaster relief for the floods, said the government cannot continue to send billions of dollars to help rebuild after the disaster. said. Damage next time.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Blair said, “We want these recovery funds to tie into new building codes and new plans on how to rebuild more resilient communities.

“It’s not very (good) to keep paying this money if we just restore the place and circumstances before these events happened and we know they’re happening more frequently and seriously. ).

Blair initiated a review of the disaster relief program last year, and the review committee he appointed submitted its report and recommendations to him in the fall.

He said he met with the panel chairman in BC on Friday to talk about it and plans to present the plan to state and territory emergency preparedness ministers when he meets with them in the spring.

Linking disaster relief to climate adaptation is also part of the National Adaptation Strategy, which was finalized last fall.

The Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements Program, known as the DFAA, was initiated in 1970 to cover the costs of restoration work after a natural disaster if it exceeds what a state or territory can reasonably afford. purpose.

Covered costs are costs related to the event itself, such as emergency evacuations, or to repair damage to public infrastructure and systems, such as roads, bridges, and water treatment plants. Reconstruction and replacement of principal housing and private business property may be eligible as long as private insurance is not eligible.

States must apply for assistance within six months, but costs can be submitted for up to five years. Each state has a population-based deduction before the program begins. In Prince Edward Island, he’s DFAA will start when his costs reach $561,000, but in Ontario, it won’t take effect until his costs exceed $50 million.

Ottawa will then pay up to 90% of the remaining costs based on certain formulas.

But Blair said climate change means disasters are piling up and program costs are skyrocketing. He said that in his first 50 years of the program, Ottawa paid his $7 billion in aid to the state and territory.

About two-thirds of that was paid between 2013 and 2020.

He said the program expects to hit the same totals again to cover damage from the past two years. , including massive flooding that hit large areas of the Lower Mainland and Okanagan Valley months later.

These two events alone are expected to cost over $5 billion in recovery costs.

Blair said at least another billion dollars is expected to help the Atlantic states recover from last fall’s rainforest Fiona.

The program will cover floods in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, wildfires in Saskatchewan, November rains and storms in Nova Scotia, and Hurricane Rally in Newfoundland and Labrador. events have also been approved or scheduled.

A 2020 Canadian Public Security Agency background document notes that the DFAA’s standard budget of $100 million per year is not enough.

“In recent years, $100 million has typically been insufficient to cover federal funding demands,” the document said.

In fact, the last time it was good enough was in 2012 with a final budget of $99.97 million. It’s been over budget every year since, spending an average of $405 million annually over the past decade.

Still, the program’s budget allocation remains at $100 million by launch, including this year.

Blair said rebuilding a better, more resilient community would save money in the future, but said it wasn’t just about the cost. It is also to protect

In Lytton, British Columbia, where wildfires destroyed nearly the entire town in June 2021, reconstruction is still pending and awaiting final restoration plans. Blair said the federal government has promised to help with the restoration costs, but the rebuilt communities won’t be the same as the old ones.

“We want to rebuild that community wisely so that it will be more resilient to this type of natural phenomenon,” he said.

This means we need smarter, fire-resistant building codes by using fire-retardant materials and designing structures to reduce vulnerability to fire.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on February 24, 2023.

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