Redford needs to come clean on flood costs before they sink Alberta

Edmonton Commons, The Edmonton Commons

Premier has plenty of questions to answer on flood relief payments.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford needs to come clean on how much flood relief is going to cost Alberta taxpayers.

Will it be $1 billion, the money already set aside? $2 billion? $5 billion? More?

Is this relief  going to bankrupt this province for a generation? Will the billions paid out for flood relief make it next to impossible for the Alberta government to help build schools, hospitals, roads, rec centres, LRT and C-train?

We need to have a public debate about just how much the provincial government should pay to help rebuild flooded homes, but to engage in that debate we need much better information and openness from our government leaders, starting with Redford.

First off, she needs to make it clear just how much of the total flood relief the federal government will eventually cover.

Federal guidelines indicate the federal government will pay as much as 90% for some kinds of flood relief, and that’s the number Redford is putting out there to comfort all of us as well, as seen as this paraphrase from Graham Thomson column:  “Redford who wants the federal government to help cover the cost of mitigation projects. As Redford points out, Ottawa has to cover 90 per cent of disaster assistance anyway, so it might as well invest money now to save money later.”

Federal government only covered 40% of Manitoba flood

But there’s a major and uncomfortable hitch in this calculation.

After the 2011 flood in Manitoba, taxpayers there had to foot a $1.025 billion bill, reported the Winnipeg Free Press:  ”The province has spent $359 million on agriculture assistance, $289 million on disaster financial assistance, $48 million on the Lake Manitoba Flood Assistance Program, $240 million in flood fighting, mitigation, restoration and flood-proofing and $89 million on an emergency channel and other infrastructure works.”

The federal government did not cover 90% of that billion dollars.

Instead if covered just 40% of it.

In Alberta, it’s likely that a higher percentage of the total cost will be in the form of relief payments to home owners with uninsured losses.

The federal eligibility guidelines make it clear the feds will cover some uninsured losses, but not all of them. The federal funding is a bit complicated, but here are the key sections:

“The costs of repairing or replacing structures are not eligible if they are in a location that, prior to their construction was designated, recognized or zoned as a flood risk area by provincial or municipal authorities.

“If a structure has been built in a previously designated flood risk area and appropriate measures have been taken during its construction to protect it against the effects of a 100-year flood, it will be considered eligible for damages from a flood exceeding the 100-year flood design.

“Structures in place prior to a flood risk area designation having come into effect are eligible for assistance, provided that: they are not subsequently rebuilt within the designated flood risk area; or appropriate and adequate flood-proofing measures (placing structures behind levees, constructing them on stilts/columns or mounds) are taken to protect against the effects of a 100-year flood. Such flood-proofing costs may be eligible up to the limits established for incremental mitigation costs.”

In Alberta, the old limit on how much one home owner could get was $100,000, but that was lifted in 2010, and Redford has made it clear she’s willing to pay unlimited costs to homeowners in order to rebuild.

Here is what she said in the days after the flood

“We are going to do whatever it takes, in terms of paying to rebuild – to rebuild homes, to rebuild families and communities. The world changed on Thursday and we’re going to deal with it.”

And she said in another interview with the Herald’s Chris Varcoe:

“We don’t know what the final cost will be. We don’t yet have the long-term plan.”

Will you cover the entire cost of rebuilding homes?

“Yes,” Redford said.

Anybody in High River will have rebuilding costs paid?


So you will rebuild all those people’s homes?


The consequence of Redford’s blank cheque promise is that the province is on the hook for payments to homeowners that the federal government will not cover.

How much will that cost?

And is there public support for such a measure?

Even in Calgary’s most anguished moment right after the flood, there was just barely majority support for unlimited relief, at least according to one Herald one line poll.